Does New Mexico allow alimony?
Yes. Alimony, which is also called "spousal support" in New Mexico, may be awarded in a divorce case, but the burden is on the spouse seeking support to show why alimony is needed.
How is the amount of alimony determined?
There is no bright-line formula applied to spousal support awards in New Mexico. Generally speaking, spouses requesting alimony must show a financial need for a specific dollar amount and the other spouse’s ability to pay.
In addition, courts will consider several factors when determining spousal support awards, including:
- the spouses’ ages, health and means of support
- each spouse’s current income, future earnings, and "earning capacity" (potential income based on education, job history, skills and employment opportunities)
- both spouses’ good faith efforts to maintain employment or become self-supporting
- the length of the marriage
- the amount of property awarded to each spouse
- each spouse’s assets and debts
- income produced by either spouse’s property (for example, income from rental properties or interest income from a trust or investment account)
- any agreements made in contemplation of a divorce or legal separation, and
- the spouses' reasonable financial needs (taking into account the marital standard of living, medical insurance needs, and life insurance to secure support payments).
How long will alimony last?
The duration of alimony depends primarily on the type of support awarded.
Long-term alimony – is the type most people think of when they hear the word “alimony.” Long-term support has an indefinite duration, which means it’s paid until the supported spouse dies or remarries.
Long-term alimony is fairly difficult to obtain as it’s generally reserved for long marriages, such as those approaching 20 years. Long-term alimony is usually awarded under the following (or similar) circumstances:
- where the couple has been married for a long-time
- where one spouse was mostly a homemaker and/or cared for the couple’s children
- where one spouse has very limited education or employment skills, and/or
- in other situations where there will always be a significant disparity in income between the spouses.
Transitional alimony – is support paid to supplement the receiving spouse’s income for a limited period of time to help the receiving spouse get established.
Rehabilitative alimony – is financial support that allows a supported spouse to pursue education, training, or a degree so he or she can earn enough income to become self-sufficient.
How is alimony paid?
Usually, the paying spouse sends the supported spouse a check every month.
However, in some cases, spouses can agree to a lump-sum buyout of support, which is a one-time payment of a fixed amount. So, for example, if the spouses agree (or a court decides) that the supported spouse should receive $1000 a month in rehabilitative alimony for 24 months, the paying spouse owes $24,000; this can be paid monthly, or in a single lump-sum (paid all at once or in one or more installments).
Divorcing couples can also agree to a lump-sum buyout of long-term alimony, but this calculation is more complicated; the first step requires a calculation of long-term support (both the amount and duration). Then, in cases where alimony is going to be paid in the future, the couple will need to “present value” the amount (determine the current value of a future lump-sum payment).
If you have questions about offering or accepting a lump-sum buyout of support, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area.
Finally, a lump-sum alimony payment will need to be managed very carefully, especially if it’s meant to cover life-time support. If you are the receiving spouse and are considering this as an option, you should meet with a financial planner who can give you sound investment advice and help you determine whether the amount offered is enough to cover your current and future expenses.
Can alimony be modified?
Unless the final alimony order says the amount of support is "non-modifiable," then it can be modified (changed) by a court. If the receiving spouse can show a substantial change in circumstances, this may justify an increase in support. If, on the other hand, the paying spouse's income changes, for example, due to the involuntary loss of employment, then the paying spouse can ask a court to reduce the support amount.
Who pays taxes on alimony?
Alimony is considered income to the supported spouse, while the paying spouse may deduct it for tax purposes.
Should I hire an attorney?
Alimony can be a very complex area of family law. Being fully informed of your legal rights and the laws on alimony can be very helpful when you’re negotiating with your spouse or preparing for a court battle over spousal support.
In any case where you and your spouse can't agree on alimony, it would be wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can answer your questions about support.
For the New Mexico statute regarding spousal support, see N. M. S. A. 1978, § 40-4-7.