While spousal support is not always awarded in a divorce, it is a common issue—and one which is often full of friction. Alimony was discussed in ancient legal texts, although our modern concept of alimony was meant to assure a wife had a roof over her head and food on the table following a divorce. Prior to no-fault divorce, spousal support was largely considered payment for a husband’s bad behavior—or if the wife’s bad behavior was the issue, she would be required to forfeit her right to support.
No-fault divorce shifted the concept of spousal support to conditional, rather than punishing. Today, the overall idea is to award spousal support for a length of time which will allow the less financially stable spouse to get back on his or her feet following the divorce. In the 70’s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against gender bias regarding spousal support, and by 2010, according to Money, nearly 3 percent of spousal support recipients were male. In 2013, spousal support recipients claimed $9.2 million in support payments on their tax returns.
In theory, the amount of spousal support—as well as the duration—are based on such factors such as the length of the marriage, the age and health of both spouses, the overall financial situation of the couple and the spouses individually, and the future earning potential of each spouse. In practice, however, the exact amount is at the discretion of the judge and cannot always be anticipated. In fact, according to a New York Times article, when an Ohio survey asked judges how much alimony a woman who had been a homemaker during the entire marriage, and was married to a doctor, deserved in monthly spousal support payments, the differences were staggering—from $5,000 per year all the way to $175,000 per year. When spouses don’t have a specific number in mind, and there are no computations to help them arrive at one, litigation can drag on for months or even years without the assistance of an experienced Albuquerque divorce attorney.
Types of New Mexico Spousal Support
There are several different types of spousal support in the state of New Mexico, including:
- Indefinite alimony provides ongoing payments with no set end date. For long-term marriages, such as 20 years or longer, it is very likely that spousal support is ordered until one spouse dies. However either spouse could ask the court to modify or terminate spousal support under the right circumstances.
- Transitional alimony is meant to help the receiving spouse make the transition from married life to single life. Transitional alimony will typically last a couple of years.
- Rehabilitative alimony can help a lower-earning spouse seek higher education or training in an effort to become fully self—supporting. Rehabilitative alimony often comes with a rehabilitation plan with the requirement that the receiving spouse adhere to the plan to continue receiving support.
- Lump-sum, non-modifiable spousal support. Lump-sum support can be paid in true lump sum, or the spouses can agree that the lump sum is paid in installments for a specified period of time until the sum is paid in full. Lump sum spousal support cannot be modified.
How is Albuquerque Spousal Support Determined?
Although there is no set formula in the state of New Mexico to determine spousal support, there are ten factors which are typically considered, including:
- The length of the marriage—generally speaking, marriages up to five years in length do not involve spousal support (although transitional spousal support could be awarded), marriages lasting five to ten years are more likely to qualify, and spouses in a marriage lasting ten years or longer are the most likely to qualify for spousal support.
- The ability of each spouse to earn a living, and how long that ability can reasonably be expected to continue. The educational levels and skills of both spouses will be taken into consideration and the relative employability of both parties will also factor in. Essentially, the current and future earnings of each spouse.
- The good-faith efforts of each spouse to obtain employment or remain employed.
- The (reasonable) needs of each spouse. This can include the standard of living experienced by each spouse during the marriage, whether medical insurance will continue for each spouse and whether life insurance should be in force for one or both spouses to benefit the other.
- The age and health of both spouses will be taken into consideration; a woman of 37 who had a long-term marriage may not be entitled to the same amount of alimony as a woman of 59 in a long-term marriage. In a similar vein, if the spouse requesting support is ill or has a disability, the court may be more likely to award spousal support. Conversely, if the spouse is requested to pay alimony is of frail health and is not likely to be able to work for an extended period of time, alimony may be denied.
- The asset division between the couple. Asset division in a divorce can be a tool to minimize or eradicate the need for spousal support. While some spouses require monthly support after a divorce, other spouses are more interested in long-term investments or sufficient property without attached debt to sustain their livelihood.
- The financial resources of each party will be considered. Financial resources include assets brought into the marriage (non-marital assets) as well as assets awarded in the divorce minus the debts awarded to each spouse.
- The type and nature of each spouse’s liabilities.
- Any income produced by property owned by either spouse; and
- Any agreement between the spouses in the form of a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement.
Spousal support in New Mexico can potentially be modified following a divorce if there is a “substantial change in circumstances” on the part of either spouse. Spousal support usually terminates automatically upon death, remarriage, or expiration of the time ordered in the Divorce Decree. Lump-sum spousal support, however, cannot be modified or terminated once it is agreed upon.
Why You Need an Experienced Albuquerque Divorce Attorney
It is extremely important to have a knowledgeable New Mexico divorce attorney firmly in your corner during your divorce, in particular when negotiating alimony payments. While you may be at an emotional point in your life which makes you want nothing more than to be done with the divorce, it is a mistake to allow those feelings to prevent you from receiving financial assistance which can truly make a difference in your future. Consult with your Albuquerque divorce attorney to arrive at a fair amount of spousal support, then allow your divorce attorney from the Mulcahy Law Firm to fight to get you that amount. Contact the experienced Mulcahy Law Firm today for all your divorce questions and needs.