One of the most frequently asked questions we receive as divorce attorneys is whether a spouse can receive alimony in a short-term marriage.
In most divorce cases, whether it is a long marriage or short marriage, alimony is always “on the table.”
But…before we get to more specific questions, let’s break down how alimony is defined and the different types of alimony (yes, there are different types)
So . . .what is alimony?
Webster’s Dictionary defines alimony as an allowance paid to a person by that person's spouse or former spouse for maintenance, granted by a court upon a legal separation or a divorce or while action is pending.
Yeah…we know the definition is not super helpful.
Generally, alimony is the legal obligation of one spouse to financially support the other spouse during and/or after marriage.
In Nevada, there are a few different types of alimony that might be important if you are seeking alimony. These include:
Temporary Alimony: Nevada law, specifically NRS 125.040, provides for temporary alimony paid from one spouse to another while the divorce case is pending.
The other three types of alimony in Nevada are paid after the divorce is finalized. These include:
Permanent Alimony: This is a life long obligation of one spouse to support another spouse after divorce. There is no end date for this type of alimony.
Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of alimony is support paid by one spouse to another after divorce so that the receiving spouse can obtain training or education relating to a job, career or profession. In Nevada, if a Court awards rehabilitative alimony, the judge must make a finding that the paying spouse has obtained greater education or job skills during the marriage.
Alimony: We chose not to define the final type of alimony because Nevada law stinks and there is no guidance for regular alimony. This last type of alimony can be paid in a lump sum or in periodic payments (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.). This is your general definition of alimony – support paid by one spouse to another after divorce for a set period of time.
So now that you know the definition of alimony and the different types of alimony, let’s get to the real questions:
Can you get alimony in a short-term marriage?
If you and your spouse cannot agree on whether alimony will be paid, a judge will decide.
Even in short marriages, the length of marriage is just 1 factor for judges to consider when deciding alimony.
In Nevada, our laws give the judges 11 different factors to look at when making a spousal support award. Those 11 factors include the following:
1.The financial condition of each spouse.
2.The nature and value of the respective property of each spouse.
3.The contribution of each spouse to any property held by the spouses
4.The duration of marriage.
5.The income, earning capacity, age and health of each spouse.
6.The standard of living during the marriage.
7.The career before the marriage of the spouse who would receive the alimony.
8.The existence of specialized education or training or the level of marketable skills attained by each spouse during the marriage.
9.The contribution of either spouse as homemaker.
10. 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.
11. The physical and mental condition of each party as it relates to the financial condition, health and ability to work of that spouse.
Yeah, we know – 11 different factors!
So how does this apply to you?
For example, if you have been married 3 years and you earn $10,000,000 a year and your spouse earns $50,000, chances are you are going to pay some alimony. It is likely you will only pay temporary alimony, but you will still pay some alimony.
Another example…you have only been married 5 years with no children. Your spouse is keeping the house, the car and the 401(k). You make $150,000 a year and your spouse makes $75,000 a year. Chances are you won’t pay alimony because your spouse is getting the majority of the community assets.
So remember . . .each case is different and whether or not alimony will be awarded will depend on how your judge looks at the facts of your specific case.
How Is alimony calculated for a short-term marriage?
Alimony on a short-term marriage is calculated just like alimony for a lengthy marriage.
Unfortunately, in Nevada there is no formula.
And…like we said in the beginning, each case will be decided by a judge basis if you and your spouse cannot agree on alimony.
While we would love to tell you that if you have a short 3-year marriage, no alimony will be paid, this is simply untrue. We have seen temporary alimony awards made in cases where the parties were only married a few months and we have seen no alimony awarded in cases where the parties were married over 30 years.
If you want to know how much you can expect to pay or how much you can expect to get, we recommend that you complete a financial disclosure form. Once the form is complete, you need to go through the form as follows:
(a) Start with your gross monthly income and look at your mandatory deductions and subtract it from your gross monthly income. This will include social security, Medicare and taxes. If you are paying health insurance, you should also subtract that amount. 401(k) or pension, charitable giving, etc. are not considered mandatory deductions. Once you have done this calculation you should have a good idea of what your net income is.
(b) Now look at your monthly expenses. Necessities such as rent, utilities, gas for your car, and food should be subtracted from your net income. Keep in mind that these are basic necessities and the should be reasonable. If you are making $3,500 in net income and paying $5,000 for rent, a judge will not consider this reasonable.
(c) Now factor in any debt obligations within reason by subtracting those from any money that remains.
(d) Now perform the same calculations for your soon to be ex.
Once you have a good idea of what is left over for each party at the end of the month, you will have a good idea of any discretionary income that remains to pay spousal support. If you and your ex have similar living expenses and the same left over at the end of each month, you should expect little to no support to be paid. If there is a big gap, be prepared to have alimony awarded.
Please keep in mind that the above calculation is a rough estimate only and as we have stated now a bunch of times, alimony in Nevada is awarded on a case by case basis. There is no set formula.
In our experience though, this is generally, the same calculation each judge performs in deciding to award alimony regardless of whether you have a short-term marriage or a lengthy marriage.
What Are My Other Options Besides Alimony?
There are many reasons to consider alternatives to alimony.
Most people who pay alimony don’t want to and those who are receiving alimony are wondering when their payments will come, what happens if their ex loses their job, etc.
And. . . regular alimony payments over a long period of time can affect how both parties need to file their taxes, how child support will be calculated and likely will be collected via wage garnishment.
Any dispute could also cause both parties to go back to court meaning more delay, more attorney’s fees and more uncertainty.
It's easy to see why folks getting divorced want an alternative to monthly alimony payments.
If you want to look for an alternative besides regular, monthly spousal support payments consider these options:
Taking more of the community property in lieu of alimony
One way to avoid monthly alimony is to have the receiving spouse take more of the community assets instead of getting monthly spousal support.
For example, if you earn $150,000 a year and your spouse earns $50,000 a year chances are there is going to be some spousal support paid, depending on the length of the marriage. Instead, of paying spousal support monthly, let’s say you have a car that’s paid off. You could have your spouse take the paid off car in lieu of taking monthly spousal support.
The key is to find an asset that has value equal or similar to the amount of support that might be owed.
Taking an asset in lieu of support can eliminate fights over the division of assets that can’t be easily divided.
Taking a cash payment in lieu of monthly spousal support
Instead of making monthly payments, you could also take a larger cash payment.
Taking a large one-time cash payment in lieu of monthly alimony eliminates the need to pay every month for the payer and the need to potentially chase payments, fight to be reimbursed for missed payments, or see a reduction in payment amount later.
You can also avoid the tax implications of monthly alimony by labeling a cash payment as “community equalization.”
A one-time payment might work like this…
Let’s go back to our example where you earn $150,000 a year and your spouse earns $50,000 a year and you’ve been married for 8 years. It would be reasonable to assume alimony somewhere around $500 a month for 3 years. That’s $18,000 in alimony! In lieu of alimony, you could pay your spouse a one time “community equalization payment” around the same amount. This way your spouse gets most of the alimony in 1 payment and doesn’t have to worry about the tax implications or if you lose your job or can’t make the payment.
So now that you know how alimony works with short-term marriages, let’s move on to some other issues couples face when ending their short-term marriage.