From time-to-time, we all hear news stories about large weekly or monthly alimony awards provided to a spouse during and following divorce. The point behind alimony is to maintain that spouse and/or children in a lifestyle similar to what they had been living after a divorce is final. However, every state has different divorce laws and policies, including Indiana. This blog covers what you need to know about “alimony” at and after a divorce in Indiana.
As an initial matter, you should know that Indiana does not have “alimony” as you might envision the concept from what is sometimes heard on television or seen on social media. Instead, Indiana has “maintenance”. Maintenance is different from alimony in that it is preliminary, rehabilitative (“rehab”) or disability maintenance.
Preliminary maintenance can be ordered by a court during the pendency of a divorce to maintain the parties and marital assets during the time the divorce pends. However, it can be modified at any time, terminated, and does not have a specific time duration (while the divorce pends) or cap as to amount. In addition, the amounts paid can be considered in the ultimate division of the marital estate.
Rehab maintenance is a statutory right that allows a divorce court to award monies to a spouse who has been out of the workforce or has a low-income-earning skill set; this is to attend training or school to increase his or her earning power. While there is not a cap on how much a trial court may award in weekly or monthly terms, rehab maintenance is limited to three (3) years of payment following divorce.
Disability maintenance is much like the name sounds. A trial court judge has the authority to order disability maintenance where the spouse is mentally or physically disabled for the duration of the disability. The trial court retains jurisdiction to modify or terminate disability maintenance during the duration of disability after the divorce; this duration may be weeks, months or years. In these cases, an expert may be necessary to establish in the evidence the medical nature of the disability, as well as how it impacts the spouse’s ability to support him or herself.
Where these limits do not provide a fair and equitable result in a divorce, and the evidence adduced at trial supports it, the trial court has other tools available to it to make the divorce terms just. For instance, if a spouse has stayed home to rear the children while the other obtained the skills to maintain a high-earning job, the trial court may award the lower-earning spouse a larger portion of the marital estate. This is called an unequal division of the marital estate, where the presumption is an equal division.
In the case where there are children, the playing field is often leveled with disproportionate income by the amount of child support paid. This assumes the stay-at-home parent obtains primary custody. Where this is the case, the child support rules and guidelines aim at keeping the children in the same type of lifestyle they had before the divorce. Thus, indirectly child support may span the gap in lifestyle for the custodial parent, at least until the children become adults and are emancipated.
Ultimately, the difference in lifestyles can be made up in a variety of ways under the Dissolution Act, including as just discussed, in the absence of “alimony”. This is the aim of effective divorce attorneys and may be demonstrated in the evidence at trial in a number of ways. The key is making your situation clearly known to your attorney and presenting evidence to allow the trial court to do the job it is charged with as a neutral decision-maker. This is “alimony”, called maintenance, in Indiana.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys handle divorce and paternity cases of all types throughout the state of Indiana; and they are adept and analyzing the need for spousal maintenance and what this requires in the presentation of evidence. This blog is intended for general educational purposes and is not intended as a solicitation for legal services or legal advice. It is an advertisement.