Alimony, as everyone knows, is the regular payment that an ex-spouse makes to the other ex-spouse after a divorce. Alimony has recently become quite controversial. Some say that alimony should be permanent when a marriage has endured for many years.

Others would abolish alimony entirely. Under the law in Indiana, there really is no such thing as “alimony,” but in particular divorces and under specific circumstances, an ex-spouse may be awarded “spousal maintenance” payments by the court as part of an Indiana divorce.

If you are divorcing in Indiana, an experienced Lake County family law attorney can explain if and how spousal maintenance might be a factor in your own divorce case – along with handling any or all of the other aspects of your divorce. A good divorce attorney can see to it that ex-spouses receive what they should receive or that ex-spouses are not ordered to pay more than they should pay.

Spousal maintenance is awarded in an Indiana divorce for these three reasons:

If the court determines that an ex-spouse is partly or completely unable to be self-supportive due to a physical or mental incapacity, the court may order the other ex-spouse to make spousal maintenance payments for the period of the incapacity.

If one ex-spouse has custody of a child whose mental or physical incapacity requires that ex-spouse to be unemployed, the court may order the other ex-spouse to make temporary spousal maintenance payments until there is a change of circumstances.

If an Indiana court determines that an ex-spouse temporarily lacks sufficient resources to provide for his or her own needs, the court may order the other ex-spouse to make “rehabilitative maintenance” payments for up to three years when the court decides that such payments are necessary and appropriate.

HOW IS A SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE DETERMINATION MADE IN INDIANA?

In any particular divorce, when determining if spousal maintenance payments should be awarded, in precisely what amount, and for exactly what length of time, a court in the state of Indiana will consider a wide variety of factors including the spouses’ educational backgrounds, training, job skills, work experience, earnings capacities, and the length of time either spouse has worked in or been away from the job market.

If one spouse interrupted a career or an education to assume homemaking or child-rearing duties during the marriage, the court will consider that interruption. The court will also take into account the cost and the length of time that may be necessary for an ex-spouse’s further education or vocational training. And when the divorcing spouses are also parents, an Indiana court will always make the “best interests” of the children the most important consideration in any divorce proceeding.

Indiana lawmakers have granted wide discretion to the state’s judges in matters related to spousal maintenance. Unlike some states where lawmakers have imposed guidelines and formulas on the courts, in Indiana, there are no statutory guidelines that determine how much spousal maintenance should be awarded in any particular divorce. Indiana judges, therefore, must use their own experience and discretion in determining spousal maintenance awards.

FOR HOW LONG IS SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE PAID IN INDIANA?

When a judge in Indiana orders rehabilitative maintenance payments for an ex-spouse to obtain education or job training and then employment, the limit is three years. However, if an ex-spouse is physically or mentally incapacitated or is caring for a child who is physically or mentally incapacitated, the maintenance payments may continue indefinitely until the court takes further action.

When circumstances do change, either spouse may petition the court to modify the spousal maintenance order. If you are paying or receiving spousal maintenance in Indiana, and circumstances have changed in your life – or your child’s or ex-spouse’s life – so that the original spousal maintenance order is no longer workable or reasonable, have a Lake County family law attorney petition the court on your behalf for a modification of the original court order.

Although it’s a routine legal procedure – everyone’s circumstances change over time – it’s possible that your ex may dispute the need for a modification, and you must remember that any ruling the court makes in cases involving a child will always place the best interests of the child first. But whether you need to request a modification of the original spousal support order, or you are contesting a modification requested by your ex, you’ll need the advice and services of an experienced Indiana family law attorney.

CAN EXES MAKE THEIR OWN SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE ARRANGEMENT?

When divorcing spouses can reach their own agreements regarding spousal maintenance, child custody, child support, and the division of marital debts and assets, that couple will save themselves considerable time, money, and aggravation.

When ex-spouses agree on spousal maintenance, there is no need to provide evidence to the court about educations or incomes because an Indiana judge will hold both ex-spouses to the terms of their agreement and will presume that both ex-spouses understand the agreement and its ramifications.

However, when ex-spouses agree on spousal maintenance and the court “signs off” on that agreement, it does not prevent either spouse from seeking a modification of the agreement when circumstances change in the future.

The key concern regarding any spousal maintenance order is that it’s fair to both ex-spouses, and if they are parents, fair to their children as well. If you are divorcing in Indiana, the right divorce attorney will make sure that the spousal maintenance arrangement treats you fairly and justly.

If you (or your divorce attorney) expect that you will be ordered by the court to make spousal maintenance payments, the possibility of making a lump sum payment as opposed to payments over time should be considered before any hearings are scheduled or any agreements are reached. Divorce is never easy. Emotions often run high. For many people, concerns about finances, children, and the future can be almost overwhelming.

Moreover, divorce and child custody statutes are exceedingly complicated in Indiana, so you’re going to need someone who routinely handles divorce cases and someone who will advocate aggressively on your behalf. Before you enter into any divorce proceeding in this state, it is imperative to discuss your situation and your legal rights and options with an experienced Lake County family law attorney.