What is alimony?
Alimony, also known as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance,” is financial support that one spouse pays to another so that both can continue to enjoy a reasonable standard of living after their marriage ends. The spouse who is ordered to make payments (the “paying spouse”) typically earns more income and is better off financially than the spouse who requests support (“supported spouse”). A judge may order a spouse to pay alimony at different points during and/or after the divorce proceedings.
Sometimes a court will order alimony to be paid as a “lump sum,” meaning a one-time payment, but more frequently, it will require periodic payments (for example, monthly payments).
Nevada courts can't consider fault or misconduct (that is, either spouse’s bad acts) when deciding whether and how much alimony to award.
Are there different kinds of alimony in Nevada?
Yes. There are four kinds of alimony in Nevada.
First, "temporary maintenance" is alimony that’s awarded and paid to the supported spouse during the divorce proceedings, but before the “final decree” (judgment of divorce) has been issued. This is the only kind of alimony that's paid before the divorce is final.
Second, "rehabilitative alimony" requires the paying spouse to give the supported spouse money to obtain training or education relating to a job, career, or profession. This type of alimony is intended to allow spouses who have been stay-at-home parents to obtain the skills necessary to re-enter the workforce and become financially independent. Rehabilitative support may be used to pay for things like testing, evaluation, guidance in establishing a training or education plan, tuition, books, fees, and job search expenses.
Third, there is "temporary alimony," which is similar to "temporary maintenance." The main difference is that temporary maintenance is awarded while the divorce is still proceeding, but temporary alimony is awarded after the divorce is final. The judge will order one spouse to pay alimony to the other for a temporary period of time after the divorce.
Fourth, and finally, there is "permanent alimony," which is a financial obligation that the paying spouse must pay to the other for an indefinite period of time. The obligation only ends when one of the spouses dies, or the receiving spouse remarries.
How is alimony calculated?
Nevada's statutes aren't very specific about how much alimony should be paid. They say that a support award must be "just and equitable," and that the court should divide all community property equally unless there is a compelling reason for an unequal division.
Nevada's appellate courts have interpreted their alimony laws in many different ways, resulting in confusion for divorce courts who are trying to decide whether they should award alimony, or what the amount should be. In response, the Family Law Section of the Nevada Bar Association developed a weighted formula, called "the Tonopah Formula," in 1997. The Tonopah Formula is a kind of mathematical model, or schedule, based on real-life data from divorce cases where judges awarded alimony. It utilizes the factors that divorce judges most commonly use to justify their decisions, and establishes financial parameters based on the income, assets, and debts in those cases.
The Tonopah Formula has never been adopted into Nevada law, but because Nevada's courts have struggled to interpret the alimony laws, the Tonopah Formula (as well as some other schedule-type alimony formulas, like the "California Formula") is still used by some courts. Lawyers, legislators, and judges are still debating whether Nevada should adopt a mathematical formula for alimony.
How do Nevada courts decide what amount of alimony is fair?
In deciding whether to award alimony, and in what amount, Nevada's alimony statute requires Nevada's divorce courts to consider all of the following factors:
- the financial condition of each spouse
- the nature and value of the respective property of each spouse
- the contribution of each spouse to any property held by the spouses pursuant to Nevada's joint tenancy, tenancy-in-common, and community property laws
- the length of the marriage
- the income, earning capacity, age and health of each spouse
- the standard of living during the marriage
- the supported spouse’s pre-marriage career
- 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
- the award of property granted by the court in the divorce, other than child support and alimony, to the supported spouse, and
- the physical and mental condition of both spouses as it relates to their financial condition, health, and ability to work.