In New Mexico courts can award spousal support (alimony) to one spouse if that spouse is financially dependent on the other. In the past, courts reserved spousal support for stay-at-home wives who needed financial help during and after the divorce. However, in New Mexico divorces today, judges can award support to either spouse, if there’s a need.
There are several types of spousal support in New Mexico. Judges can award one or a combination of spousal support types, depending on supported spouse’s needs.
Either spouse can request spousal support, but it’s not automatic and requires the requesting spouse to demonstrate a need for financial assistance. When deciding whether spousal support is appropriate, judges will evaluate the following factors:
Judges have broad discretion when deciding spousal support, and if you’re looking for a straight forward calculator, you won’t find one. The court will evaluate all the factors listed above, especially the length of the marriage and whether one spouse gave up a career for the benefit of the other. For example, the court is more likely to award spousal support when the marriage lasted 15 years, and the supported spouse put a career on hold to raise a family.
Most awards are temporary, and the judge will set an end date or list a specific circumstance for the termination in the initial order. For example, the court may require a spouse to pay transitional support for 12 months to help the recipient become established in a post-divorce lifestyle. If there is no end date—which is rare—the award may continue indefinitely or until the death of the supported spouse, unless the court orders otherwise.
Some couples agree, in advance, to make spousal support awards non-modifiable, which means neither can ask the court in the future to adjust the order. However, absent an agreement to the contrary, the law in New Mexico permits judges to review spousal support awards if a change in circumstances exists. Judges can only review rehabilitative, transitional, or indefinite spousal support awards.
The court will not modify lump-sum support orders. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-7 (2) (2018).)
If the court orders rehabilitative, transitional, or indefinite spousal support, it’s likely the judge required the paying spouse to make periodic payments to the recipient. Although couples can agree to a payment frequency and method, absent an agreement, the court will usually include an income withholding order that directs the paying spouse’s employer to withhold spousal support and send it directly to the recipient. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 40-4-7 (B) (1) (2018).)
If a spouse is self-employed, or otherwise doesn’t have a steady income, the court may ask for a lump-sum payment, which may be one large sum or multiple. For example, a lump-sum may include signing over employment bonuses to your spouse for three years or until spousal support is paid in full.
The law also permits a judge to order a spouse to sign over the title of a paying spouse’s separate or marital property to the supported spouse to satisfy spousal support payment. (N.M. Stat. Ann. §40-4-12 (2018).)
If you depend on your spousal support to make ends meet, it can be frustrating if your former spouse stops paying. If you’re not receiving your payments, you can request help from the court by filing a motion for enforcement. The court takes non-payment seriously, and a failure to pay can result in fines, attorney's fees, liens, or jail.
Historically, paying spouses could deduct spousal support payments on tax returns, and the recipient reported and paid taxes on the income. However, recent changes to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the popular tax-deduction for paying spouses and also removed the reporting requirement for recipients.
Whether you’re receiving or paying spousal support, the new tax laws will impact your case. It’s important to speak with an experienced attorney before you sign a settlement agreement in your divorce case.