Serving Indiana Since 1994

Is spousal maintenance always required in divorce?

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2021 | Divorce

Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is not always required in an Indiana divorce. At one time, it was common for Indiana courts to order one ex-spouse to pay maintenance for the other. Today, maintenance is required only under certain conditions.

Equitable distribution

Indiana is an equitable distribution state. This means when a married couple ends their marriage through divorce, Indiana law requires them to divide their marital property in a way that is fair to both parties. This doesn’t necessarily mean they must divide their assets 50-50. Indeed, there are situations in which even a 50-50 split would not be fair.

What courts want to see is a division of property that will allow both parties to live with resources that are similar to what they enjoyed during the marriage. It also expects both parties to work to support themselves.

Divorce is never easy, but in a best case scenario, the spouses go their separate ways and carry on with their careers as before. For each ex-spouse, a decent income allows them to afford a suitable place to live and other necessities.

When maintenance is necessary

Unfortunately, divorce can often be financially much harder on one spouse than the other. For instance, if one spouse has a high-paying job and the other does not, the high-earning ex is going to have an easier time than the low-earning spouse. In these cases, a property division settlement can help the disadvantaged spouse, but it may not be enough.

To determine if maintenance is necessary, courts look to a number of factors, including the education and earning capacity of each spouse, whether there has been an interruption in one spouse’s career and education, and the amount of time and expense required for the disadvantaged spouse to secure suitable employment. For instance, if one spouse left school and stayed out of the job market for a few years to care for the couple’s children, that spouse is at a disadvantage upon re-entering the job market. Meanwhile, the other spouse can carry on with their career as before the divorce.

Maintenance is typically temporary, but it can be crucial in helping a disadvantaged spouse to get a new start.