Spousal support, also known as maintenance, means monetary payments from one spouse to the other. Maintenance is designed to help the lower earning spouse maintain a reasonable standard of living and become self-supporting during and after a divorce.
In Indiana, divorce courts may order spousal support under any one of three circumstances:
- If the court finds that one spouse is physically or mentally incapacitated in a way that materially affects that spouse’s ability to be self-supporting. In that case, support lasts for as long as the incapacity lasts, and the court retains the ability to change the order later.
- If the court finds that one spouse doesn’t have enough property, even after the marital property is divided, to provide for that spouse’s needs, and that spouse has custody of a child who has a physical or mental incapacity that means the parent can’t work. Both of these things must be true. With this type of maintenance, the court can order support for whatever period of time the judge thinks is appropriate.
- If the court thinks that an order of support is appropriate after considering each spouse’s education and earning capacity, as well as whether either spouse interrupted an education or career to care for children. The judge must also evaluate the time and expense necessary to allow the supported spouse to be retrained and find employment. This type of support is called “rehabilitative,” and the judge can’t make an award that lasts longer than three years.
There are no specific guidelines in Indiana for what amount of support the court should order. The judge will try to calculate an amount that will allow both spouses to have similar lifestyles, taking into account how long support might last, whether the supported spouse might be able to earn some money even while retraining, and what the tax consequences of different support scenarios would be.
A maintenance award will end automatically if either spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries. Otherwise, a maintenance award can only be changed if the circumstances of the spouses have changed so much that the terms of the order have become unreasonable. This is a pretty high bar—it would require that something drastic changed, like the paying spouse becoming completely unemployed.
If your spouse fails to comply with a maintenance order, you may ask the judge to withhold income from your spouse's paycheck so the maintenance amount can be sent directly to you.
Both spouses should consider the tax implications of spousal support awards. Generally, the spouse who pays support claims it as a deduction on federal tax returns, and the spouse who receives support claims it as income.
Indiana Code § 31-15-7-2