Spousal maintenance, also commonly called alimony, is awarded in Indiana in certain circumstances.
Based on the specific facts or circumstances of a particular case, the judge will determine whether temporary maintenance or maintenance for an indefinite period of time should be ordered.
Issues relating to spousal maintenance grant the judge a great deal of discretion.
The court may order spousal maintenance to be paid indefinitely in some circumstances. A court may make the following findings concerning maintenance:
If the court finds a spouse to be physically or mentally incapacitated to the extent that the ability of the incapacitated spouse to support himself or herself is materially affected, the court may find that maintenance for the spouse is necessary during the period of incapacity, subject to further order of the court.
If the court finds that a spouse lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for the spouse’s needs, and the spouse is the custodian of a child whose physical or mental incapacity requires the custodian to forgo employment, the court may find that maintenance is necessary for the spouse in an amount and for a period of time that the court considers appropriate.
An order for maintenance may be modified upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable.
The court may also award temporary spousal maintenance. After considering the below factors, a court may find that rehabilitative maintenance for the spouse seeking maintenance is necessary in an amount and for a period of time that the court considers appropriate, but not to exceed three years from the date of the final decree.
These factors are:
1. The educational level of each spouse at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced;
2. Whether an interruption in the education, training, or employment of a spouse who is seeking maintenance occurred during the marriage as a result of homemaking or child care responsibilities, or both;
3. The earning capacity of each spouse, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and length of presence in or absence from the job market; and
4. The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse who is seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment.
In addition to the court hearing evidence on the issue of spousal maintenance and making an award for it, some prenuptial agreements or even property settlement agreements, which are contracts between the parties, may allow the parties to agree to spousal maintenance for a period of time greater than what could be awarded by the judge.
If the parties reach an agreement regarding spousal maintenance, the court will typically uphold these agreements if they were not induced by fraud or duress and were not unconscionable at the time they were entered into on the grounds that the parties should be held to the benefit of their bargain.
In the event that the parties entered into an agreement for the payment of spousal maintenance, there will be no presentation to the judge regarding the income of the parties, education, or other circumstances because the court will hold the parties to the benefit of their bargain and assume that they knew and understood the agreement they were entering.
A modification of an agreement of this nature will require the party requesting the modification to make a strong showing to be modified as the parties likely relied on the maintenance provision in negotiating other issues such as the division of property, which cannot be modified without a showing of fraud, duress, or mutual mistake.
If no agreement regarding maintenance has been a reached and a request for spousal maintenance has been made to the court, the judge will hear evidence from the parties as to the reason the maintenance is requested, the income of the parties, the education level of the parties, the property of the parties including both assets and liabilities, and other relevant information.
The long term impacts of paying spousal support and the possibility of paying a lump sum property settlement payment as opposed to spousal maintenance payments made over time to a former or current spouse should be discussed with an attorney in advance of any hearings or agreement which may obligate you to pay spousal support.
Often the determination as to whether an individual will have to pay spousal support is dependent upon the specific facts of the case.