Indiana Alimony and Spousal Support Laws
Alimony in the United States is, traditionally, a payment that one partner pays to another for maintenance and support following a separation or divorce. Given the fact that women lacked property rights when the first U.S. divorce laws were written, alimony was used to level the playing field and allow for a woman to better support herself post-divorce. However, at the time, divorce was exclusively fault-based, and therefore, alimony was only awarded in situations where the ex-husband was found to be at fault for the divorce. Then, in the 1970s, U.S. divorce laws began to shift, as did Indiana alimony laws. Today, most states have moved on from using the term “alimony,” and now use the term “spousal support,” or “spousal maintenance.” Indiana, specifically, uses “spousal maintenance,” which is outlined completely in Indiana Code 31-15-7. In comparison to the Indiana alimony laws of the past, the current Indiana spousal maintenance laws are limiting. Today, maintenance is only available in limited circumstances, and in most cases, for a limited time. Therefore, if you are fighting to receive spousal maintenance in Indiana (formerly known as Indiana alimony) you will need a divorce attorney who has a thorough understanding of the Indiana divorce laws.
The spousal maintenance lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have the experience and litigation skills, as well as the required understanding of Indiana divorce law, to advocate for your right to be self-sustaining following your divorce. To gain financial independence and begin this next chapter in your life, call Keffer Hirschauer today at 317-648-9560 or schedule a free consultation online.
Does Indiana Have Alimony?
No, following the Dissolution of Marriage and Bankruptcy Act of 1973, court-ordered alimony in Indiana does not exist. Instead, this act authorized Indiana courts to award spousal maintenance, rather than traditional Indiana alimony. This change was made with the intent to place strict limitations on the power of Indiana courts to order maintenance without the consent of the parties. Therefore, the authorization to award spousal maintenance in Indiana is strikingly limited.
However, it should be noted that one can still receive alimony in Indiana as a condition of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Although, courts do have the ability to refuse to enforce the terms of these agreements under several circumstances.
As outlined in Indiana Code 31-11-3-8, a premarital agreement is not enforceable if a party against whom enforcement is sought proves that: (A) the party did not execute the agreement voluntarily; or the agreement was unconscionable when the agreement was executed; (B) If a provision of a premarital agreement modifies or eliminates spousal maintenance; and the modification or elimination causes one party to the agreement extreme hardship under circumstances not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the execution of the agreement; a court, notwithstanding the terms of the agreement, may require the other party to provide spousal maintenance to the extent necessary to avoid extreme hardship.
Although the Indiana legislature has yet to pass a law on post-nuptial agreements, and they’re generally disfavored, case law requires that Indiana courts recognize post-nuptial agreements. They must refrain from modifying these agreements unless there is a finding of “fraud, duress, or other imperfections of consent or manifest inequities.” This is based on the judicial decisions of Augle v. Augle (Ind. Ct. App.2007).
Indiana Alimony vs. Indiana Spousal Maintenance
Indiana alimony, which no longer exists within the state’s current divorce laws, was often based on factors like the length of the marriage, the respective age of each party, and their education levels. Under this system, there were not any time limits on alimony orders, and the courts had more freedom in granting orders. Therefore, when a couple divorced following a lengthy marriage, the court could order the financially sound spouse to make a large alimony payment for many years.
Currently, in lieu of alimony in Indiana, a divorcing party may seek a spousal maintenance order. Like alimony, an Indiana spousal maintenance order requires one spouse to pay support to the other after the divorce. However, these orders are only awarded in limited circumstances and, depending on the circumstances, limited in their duration. Per Indiana Code 31-15-7, spousal maintenance can only be awarded by a trial court in one of three scenarios:
- When a spouse is incapacitated;
- When a spouse is a caregiver for an incapacitated child; or
- When a spouse requires support in order to acquire education or training to get a job
Spousal Maintenance for Spousal Incapacity
In regard to scenarios in which a spouse is incapacitated, as outlined in Indiana Code 31-15-7-2(1), the spouse requesting maintenance must provide clear evidence that he/she is either physically or mentally incapacitation, and therefore cannot support themselves. Typically, this has been proven via medical documents, expert testimony, or by demonstrating that they have been declared disabled by a government entity, such as the Social Security Administration. When deciding whether to award spousal maintenance for incapacitation, Indiana courts will consider the nature of the incapacitation and the anticipated duration of incapacitation. They may also consider the monetary impact of the person’s incapacitation and the amount of care that they will require.
Spousal Maintenance for Caregiver Maintenance
Indiana Code 31-15-7-2(2) applies directly to scenarios in which a spouse is the caregiver to an incapacitated child, and reads, “If the court finds that: (a) a spouse lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for the spouse’s needs; AND (b) 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.”
The one element of this provision to take note of is the “AND.” This is important because it stipulates that Indiana spousal maintenance is not available to a spouse who only lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her own needs. Instead, it requires that the spouse must also be the custodian to a child who is mentally or physically incapacitated, and therefore must forgo employment.
Like proving spousal incapacity, the spouse requesting caregiver maintenance must clearly prove that their child is incapacitated to the point that they must forgo employment. This is typically done by providing the court with medical documentation, expert testimony and/or official declarations from government entities. When deciding upon the award, Indiana courts consider the nature of the child’s incapacitation, the anticipated duration of incapacitation, the monetary impact of the child’s incapacitation, and the amount of care that they require.
Spousal Maintenance for Rehabilitative Maintenance
Rehabilitative maintenance, as defined in Indiana Code 31-15-7-2(3), exists to help the petitioning spouse obtain education and/or training to become employable and self-sustaining. Rehabilitative maintenance may be awarded when the spouse has proven that in lieu of obtaining an education or pursuing a career, they pursued homemaking and/or childcare responsibilities on behalf of both parties. Indiana courts also consider other factors such as the educational background of both parties, as well as each of their earning capacities, work history and how much time has passed since they last pursued their education or training. Finally, courts will consider the time and cost required for the party seeking support to attain the education or training needed to find suitable employment.
Length of Payment for Spousal Maintenance or Indiana Alimony
Courts, generally, prefer to put an end-date on Indiana spousal maintenance orders. In maintenance orders based on a spouse or dependent child’s incapacity, the length of the order will last for the duration of incapacity. This can be lengthy if the incapacitated spouse suffers from a permanent disability that prevents them from being self-sustainable. It can also be lengthy if the incapacitated child is still quite young and suffers a permanent disability. However, the order cannot exceed their 18th birthday when they no longer can be deemed a dependent child.
Rehabilitative maintenance orders, however, are much more limited. According to Indiana Code 31-15-7-2(3d), rehabilitative maintenance orders cannot exceed three years from the date of the final decree. Furthermore, courts may determine that even less time is needed for the requesting spouse to obtain the education or training required to obtain employment and become self-sustainable.
Questions about Indiana Spousal Maintenance or Indiana Alimony Law?
Divorce is an emotional, trying process that is only compounded when trying to navigate the complexity of Indiana divorce law. However, understanding what Indiana law says about your legal questions is key to preparing for court and protecting your rights. So, if you’re going through a divorce and have questions about spousal maintenance, Indiana alimony, or anything related to divorce law, it would be wise to speak with an experienced Indiana divorce attorney.
The Indianapolis family law attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP understand the emotional and legal difficulties you face and stand ready to answer all the questions you may have for us. With our compassionate advocacy, deep understanding of the nuances of Indiana family law, and assertive family law litigation experience, we are ideally qualified to serve your legal needs in Indiana family law matters. Schedule a free consultation online today, or give us a call at 317-648-9560.