Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Indiana

Learn when judges may award spousal maintenance in an Indiana divorce, and how to enforce or modify alimony payments.

By , Retired Judge

Alimony (called "maintenance" in Indiana law) is intended to provide financial assistance for a spouse who may need it during the divorce process and possibly for a period of time after the final divorce. If you or your spouse is (or will be) requesting maintenance as part of the process of filing for divorce in Indiana, you should understand how it works and how judges make their decisions on the amount and duration of this financial support.

When May Judges Award Alimony in Indiana?

Most—if not all—states have taken steps to revamp their alimony laws, especially by limiting how long alimony may last. The overarching goal now is to help supported spouses become self-sufficient. But Indiana has outpaced many other states in restricting not only the duration of alimony payments, but also the circumstances in which a judge may award maintenance. Unless you meet one of the sets of conditions discussed below, youwon't be able to receive any alimony in Indiana.

Temporary Maintenance During Divorce

A judge may award a spouse temporary maintenance while the divorce is in progress. Indiana law simply says that the award must be "just and proper." (Ind. Code § 31-15-4-8(a) (2023).)

One goal of this temporary support is to maintain the status quo—financial and otherwise—while the divorce plays out. But in many cases that isn't possible because it's more expensive to maintain two households than a shared one, and most couples don't have the financial wherewithal to meet that burden. Still, judges do the best they can. As long as their awards are reasonable and appropriate, appellate courts won't overrule them.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative maintenance, the most common type of alimony in Indiana, is meant to provide some financial support for a short period of time while a spouse is preparing to become self-supporting. Before deciding whether a spouse needs rehabilitative alimony, the judge must consider:

  • each spouse's educational level when the couple first married and when they're getting divorced
  • each spouse's earning capacity, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and the length of employment or absence from the job market
  • whether the requesting spouse interrupted education, training, or employment opportunities during the marriage to care for the children or home (or both), and
  • the time and expense necessary for that spouse to get enough education or training to enter the workforce and find appropriate employment.

Regardless of the circumstances, Indiana law limits rehabilitative alimony to a maximum of three years. (Ind. Code Ann. § 31-15-7-2(3) (2023).)

Maintenance for Incapacited Spouse

Indiana also allows judges to award maintenance to spouses who are so physically or mentally incapacitated that they can't support themselves. In these situations, the maintenance may last as long as the incapacity lasts. The judge will reserve the right to review and change the maintenance order later, if necessary. (Ind. Code § 31-15-7-2(1) (2023).)

Alimony for Custodial Parent of Incapacitated Child

Finally, you may receive maintenance if the judge believes it's necessary because you meet both of the following requirements:

  • you're the custodial parent of a child whose physical or mental incapacity makes it impossible for you to work outside the home, and
  • you don't have enough property (including assets awarded to you as part of the property division in divorce) to meet your financial needs.

In this scenario, Indiana law doesn't specify how much the payments should be or how long they should last. Rather, it's up to the judge to decide what's appropriate under the circumstances. (Ind. Code § 31-15-7-2(2) (2023).)

How Do Judges Calculate Alimony in Indiana?

There's no specific formula in Indiana for judges to calculate an alimony amount. It's up to the judge to decide what's fair and appropriate under the circumstances. Ordinarily, judges don't take into consideration a spouse's fault in causing the breakdown of the marriage when determining an alimony award. Alimony is supposed to be based on need. It isn't meant to punish bad behavior.

Who Pays Alimony?

Either spouse may request alimony, regardless of gender. But remember that the judge may not award maintenance unless the requesting spouse meets one of the strict conditions discussed above.

How Is Maintenance Paid and Enforced in Indiana?

Most maintenance orders require periodic payments (usually monthly or bi-weekly). At times, the judge may order a spouse to make a one-time, lump-sum maintenance payment rather than periodic payments. You might see this in situations where the paying spouse doesn't have steady employment but has a lot of assets. However, lump-sum payments are more the exception than the rule.

If you're supposed to be getting maintenance payments but aren't receiving them on time, you may ask the court to enforce the alimony order. The judge could issue an income withholding order, which would require your spouse's employer to withhold the maintenance amounts from their paycheck and forward the money to you. In some cases, the judge might even find your spouse in contempt of court, which could result in fines and possibly even jail time. (Ind. Code § 31-15-7-10 (2023).)

How to Modify Alimony in Indiana

Either spouse may ask the court to modify or terminate alimony. But there are only two situations when a judge will modify the alimony award:

  • Modification based on changed circumstances. The judge may modify or revoke the existing award if you can show that it is now unreasonable because there's been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances,.
  • Modification of alimony based on non-guideline child support. The judge may also modify or end maintenance if one of the spouses has been ordered to pay an amount of child support that's at least 20% higher or lower than the amount under Indiana's child support guidelines. However, you may not request a modification for this reason unless at least one year has passed since the date of the most recent maintenance order.

(Ind. Code § 31-15-7-3 (2023).)

Be aware that in most situations, unless you and your spouse have an agreement about the proposed changes, alimony modification proceedings involve complicated legal issues that are best handled by an experienced family law attorney.

Taxes and Alimony

If your divorce was final before 2019, the paying spouse may continue to deduct alimony payments for purposes of federal income taxes, and the receiving spouse must report those payments as income. However, for all couples who divorced after 2018, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated any tax deduction or income reporting requirements for alimony. That means the Internal Revenue Service won't count these payments as income for the recipient, and the paying spouse won't get the deduction.

Getting Help With Maintenance

As with all other issues in your divorce, you and your spouse always have the option of reaching a settlement agreement about alimony. (Ind. Code § 31-15-2-17 (2023).) With an agreement, you won't have to meet the very limited circumstances under which Indiana law allows maintenance awards. You and your spouse can decide how much the payments will be and, perhaps even more importantly, how long they will last. You might also include a provision preventing either spouse from requesting a modification of the agreed maintenance in the future.

If you're having trouble agreeing about any divorce issues, divorce mediation might help you resolve your differences. And if you're hesitant about negotiating a compromise, it may help to know that going to trial increases the cost of divorce exponentially, as well as making the process more stressful and take longer.

But if you haven't been able to reach an agreement even after mediation, you will probably need an experienced family law attorney to protect your interests and help you navigate your divorce. Here are some tips on meeting with potential lawyers and questions you should ask