One common question that we get from our clients in nearly every Las Vegas Divorce case is whether alimony will be awarded. The alimony statutes and case law provide some guidance, but are not rigid calculations and leave a lot of room for interpretation. As a result, each case may result in different outcomes depending on the facts of the case and even which Clark County Family Court Judge you are in front of. This blog post is intended to provide a general understanding of what alimony is, when it is awarded, how it is calculated, if it can be avoided, and if it can be modified, so that you are more prepared for your consultation with an attorney or if you are simply contemplating divorce.
What is Alimony?
Alimony (sometimes referred to as Spousal Support) is an equitable award serving to meet the post divorce needs and rights of the former spouse (either husband or wife). The two primary purposes of alimony are:
- To Narrow any large gaps between the post-divorce earning capacities of the parties, and;
- To allow the recipient spouse to live as nearly as fairly possible to the station in life enjoyed before the divorce.
Shydler v. Shydler, 114 Nev. 192 (1998).
Alimony is not Separate Maintenance or property equalization.
How is the amount of Alimony Calculated?
This can be tricky because unlike the calculation for Child Support, which we discussed in a recent blog post, there is no statutory calculation for Alimony. The individual circumstances of each case will determine the appropriate amount and length of any alimony award. Shydler v. Shydler, 114 Nev. 192 (1998). Thus, it is up to the Court after taking into consideration the case law and statutory provisions discussed below.
How can Alimony be Avoided?
The only way to guarantee to avoid an alimony award would be to enter into a valid prenuptial agreement (NRS 123A), a valid postnuptial agreement (NRS 123.270-.310), or a spendthrift trust (NRS 166, Klabacka v. Nelson, 133 Nev ___, 394 P.3d 940 (2017)).
What are the different types of Alimony?
Alimony can be awarded during the pendency of the case as a temporary order to provide for support and cost of suit until the case is resolved. NRS 125.040. These types of awards are made without the benefit of a trial, and are often solely based upon the parties’ Financial Disclosures, pleadings, and argument of counsel.
After your trial/evidentiary hearing, the Court may award two different types of alimony if the individual circumstances of your case warrant it. They are:
- General: Under NRS 125.150, alimony can be awarded if it appears just and equitable, and;
- Rehabilitative: The same statute allows a rehabilitative award to provide necessary training or education relating to job, career or profession.
Well what does that mean? Not a lot. Fortunately, the Nevada Legislature codified specific factors to help guide the Court in making a determination on whether an alimony award is appropriate. Under NRS 125.150, some of the factors the Court will look at include:
- The financial condition of each spouse;
- The value of separate property of each spouse;
- Duration of the marriage;
- The income, earning capacity, age and health of each spouse;
- The career before the marriage of the spouse who would receive the alimony.
There are several other factors as well, but this gives you a general idea.
For rehabilitative alimony, the court can consider the factors set forth in the statute, but has to consider whether the spouse who would pay such alimony has obtained greater job skills or education during the marriage, and whether the spouse who would receive such alimony provided financial support while the other spouse obtained job skills or education.
Once Alimony is set, can it be Modified or Eliminated prior to the end of the time period awarded?
The short answer is, it depends. We have seen Alimony awards that have been a result of a settlement between the parties that contain terms that prevent it from being modified, or include terms that it be eliminated upon a specific event such as cohabitation or marriage.
If it does not have a clause preventing modification, you might be able to modify future payments. However, you cannot modify payments that have already been due. In order to modify future payments, based upon a showing of changed circumstances such as financial inability to pay. Additionally, death or remarriage of the spouse who was receiving payments would result in alimony being terminated unless the Court ordered otherwise.
As you can see, whether Alimony is awarded in a Las Vegas Family Court is a complicated determination. There are many factors and arguments that might be made in your case. If you would like to set up a consultation with an experienced Las Vegas Family Lawyer to determine your next step, call Crawford & Doyle at 702.706.3323, or fill out the contact sheet on this page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
*This blog post is intended to give a basic overview of the alimony system in Nevada and not intended to constitute legal advice or form an attorney client relationship with our firm. Due to the complicated nature of alimony awards, it is advised that you consult a legal professional.