How Does The Court Determine Alimony During a Divorce?

A diverse variety of factors determine alimony amounts in Nevada. Either the parties are going to agree on something or the judge is going to plug a number of factors into their equation and come up with a number. Length of marriage is one of the primary factors is the decision about alimony. We usually start looking at alimony as a possibility after six or seven years of marriage. If the marriage dissolves before that time period, it’s usually not an issue unless there’s some kind of disability or special situation. The second biggest factor is the differential in income. If, in a divorce, there are two people that make the same amount of money, there’s probably not going be any amount of alimony awarded because nobody needs the help that alimony provides. However, if you have a situation where one party has been at home taking care of the children and the home and the other has been the primary breadwinner, there is a theory that the at-home party may need some assistance. Now, obviously, depending on who the client is, we have to look at the factors and then try and characterize issues in the best possible light to meet the goals of our client. While we do that, there is usually an attorney on the other side doing the same thing. The judge looks at the age of the parties, education level, employability, and sometimes if people are underemployed, that’s an issue too. If they’re not doing the higher- paying job they were trained for, the court can look at that and they may try and impute income to them for choosing to do a lesser-paying job. So there’s a lot more flexibility with alimony arguments, and that’s where there’s a lot of discretion on a judge’s part in terms of duration and the amount. There can be indefinite alimony for an extremely long term marriage or where there’s a disability or some situation like that. But more typically, it is limited in time. The same factors go into length of time as go into amounts. As lawyers, we start with a rule of thumb that alimony might be for one half the length of the marriage, and then we try and either extend that or shorten it depending on the specific circumstances. And again, every case is different.

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