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UNDERSTANDING ALIMONY

Alimony constitutes an amount of money paid by one spouse to the other spouse at the conclusion of marriage. The purpose of Alimony is to provide for continued financial support for the payee spouse. Alimony is generally paid in periodic installments, generally monthly. However alimony can be paid in a lump sum settlement as well. NRS provides that the courts are to Order alimony as appears just and equitable. [Nev. Rev. Stat. §125.150(1)]. In order to determine what is "just and equitable" the State Legislature has provided a list of factors which the court should consider, including:

1. the financial condition of each spouse;

2. the nature and value of each party's property;

3. the contribution of each party to any property held by them as tenants by the entirety;

4. the duration of the marriage;

5. each party's income, earning capacity, age, health, and ability to work, the standard of living during the marriage;

6. the career before the marriage of the spouse who would receive the alimony;

7. the existence of specialized education or training or the level of marketable skills attained by each spouse during the marriage; the contribution of either spouse as homemaker;

8. the award of property granted by the court in the divorce, other than child support and alimony, to the spouse who would receive the alimony; and

9. the physical and mental condition of each party as it relates to the financial condition, health and ability to work of that spouse.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Additionally, NRS grants the courts with the power to award Rehabilitative Alimony. This type of alimony is meant to help one payee spouse to obtain training or education relating to a job, career or profession in lieu of permanent alimony. In considering an award of rehabilitative alimony the court will consider such factors as: 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. See Nev. Rev. Stat §125.150(9).

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction for alimony is not the same as jurisdiction for divorce. In a divorce proceeding jurisdiction is based on the domicile of the plaintiff who brings the action for divorce. The court then has in rem jurisdiction over the property of the marriage. However for the court to award Alimony it must have in personam jurisdiction meaning that the court must have jurisdiction over the person of the defendant. If a court does enter an order compelling one party to pay alimony to the other without jurisdiction then that order will be void. For example, a plaintiff could file for divorce in Nevada assuming that the plaintiff has lived in Nevada for at least six (6) weeks. Jurisdiction would be proper even if the defendant was domiciled in California. The court would have jurisdiction to enter a Decree of Divorce. The Nevada court would also have in rem jurisdiction over the marital property inside Nevada. Therefore, the court could enter a decree with regards to the marital property. However, the court could not Order an out of state Defendant, in the example above the California resident, to pay alimony to the Plaintiff in California because the court would not have personal jurisdiction over the Defendant.

Enforcement

In the event that the court Orders an award of alimony, the payee spouse (payee meaning the person awarded alimony) should be aware that this award can be enforced by the court. Therefore, if the payor spouse (payor meaning the person ordered to pay) does not abide by the Order by making his/her alimony payment then the payee spouse may petition the court for nonpayment of alimony. If the court determines that the payor spouse is in contempt of court then the court can use any of a number of remedies to enforce such Order including imprisonment.

Modification

Generally speaking, an award of alimony by the court is considered to be res judicata, meaning that any such award is non-modifiable. Nevada Revised statutes section 125.150(7) states that if a decree of divorce, or an agreement between the parties which was ratified, adopted or approved in a decree of divorce, provides for specified periodic payments of alimony, the decree or agreement is not subject to modification by the court as to accrued payments. What this means is that in the state of Nevada an award of alimony can be modified only as to payment obligations going forward from the date of filing a motion for modification. Courts will not allow a modification of payments which have already accrued. Furthermore the courts will not allow a payor spouse to use this rule to their advantage by paying off their future alimony obligations early so as to prevent modification. [Schryver v. Schryber, 108 Nev. 190 (1992)]

If a payor or payee spouse wishes to modify an alimony Decree they can do so as long as such alimony has not yet accrued. Furthermore, the individual who moves for this modification can only do so upon a showing of changed circumstances. A change of 20% or more in gross monthly income of the payor spouse constitutes changed circumstances. Therefore if you the payor spouse has a reduction in gross monthly income if an amount equal to 20% of his/her gross monthly income it may be in that spouse's best interest to file a motion to reduce alimony. Correspondingly, if the if the payee spouse receives an increase in gross monthly income of at least 20% then it is likely in the payee spouse's best interest to file a motion to increase alimony. [Nev. Rev. stat. §125.150(11)]

It should also be noted that Alimony obligations are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. However if the payor spouse does assume debt or liability as part of a property settlement in the divorce and that payor spouse later has that debt or liability discharged, then this can be grounds to modify the alimony, in which case the payor spouse might be ordered to pay more alimony.

Death or Remarriage

Nevada Revised Statues 125.150(5) provides that alimony obligations of the payor spouse and his/her estate cease upon the death of the payor spouse. Correspondingly, the death of the payee spouse terminates the obligation of the payor spouse to pay alimony. Similarly, the remarriage of the payee spouse terminates the payor spouse's obligation to pay alimony.