Under the Divorce Act, the Legislature vests trial courts with great discretion to divide the marital estate in a just and equal manner. One consideration in any divorce is the award of statutory rehabilitation maintenance.
Rehabilitation maintenance1 is much narrower than alimony in many states because it only allows a trial court to award such for up to three (3) years when a spouse needs extra support while obtaining employment-related education or training.
There are four (4) considerations the trial court considers in making such an award:
- The educational level of each spouse at the time of marriage and at the time the divorce is commenced.
- Whether there was an interruption in the education, training or employment of a spouse who is seeking maintenance during the marriage to raise the children.
- The earning capacity of each spouse and length of presence in or absence from the job market.
- The time an expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse who is seeking maintenance to find employment.
This noted, however, many of our blogs have discussed the benefits of special findings as this changes the standard of appellate review.2 However, special findings that support a maintenance award do not have to have magic language that the spouse “needs support while acquiring sufficient education or training to get an appropriate job.”3 This specific language came from the key Indiana Supreme Court case on point.
So the key takeaways from this blog are rehabilitation maintenance is authorized by the Dissolution Act, but is not long-term alimony as found in many states. Second, a spouse who needs rehabilitation maintenance must present evidence of these statutory factors in the record. Third, the request for special findings will not reduce this type or order (special findings) to technical forms of presentation of the evidence or order and a specific finding a spouse is awarded maintenance with any of this evidence does not make the appealed order clearly erroneous.
This said, and to further highlight the importance of rehabilitation maintenance, two common scenarios are provided in this log. A common example is a mother or father who gives up a career or education to rear the children. Also, rehabilitation maintenance may be awarded where the parties have a dramatically different earning power and rehabilitation maintenance is sought to aid the weaker-earning spouse in obtaining education sufficient to live a lifestyle closer to if the parties had not divorced.
Rehabilitation maintenance must be established in the evidence of the divorce trial and decree or cannot be sought later; however, the parties can reach an agreement for rehabilitation maintenance in a settlement.
We hope this blog post helps you understand the relationship between special findings, findings for rehabilitation maintenance, what the court considers in making an award for rehabilitation maintenance when to ask for it, how long it lasts and common scenarios in which it is ordered.
This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle domestic cases of all types throughout the State, including those seeking rehabilitation maintenance. This blog is intended for general educational purposes and is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.