Understanding Alimony Laws in Indiana

Indiana law does not provide for the payment of alimony as many are familiar with it. Instead, it recognizes spousal maintenance, which in this state is very different than the alimony payments you may have seen depicted on television. First, there are very narrowly defined circumstances under which a party may be entitled to receive spousal maintenance, it is for a limited amount of time, that in most cases is left to the discretion of the court, and it has nothing to do with a spouse maintaining any certain lifestyle they may have become accustomed to during the marriage. This blog explores alimony and spousal maintenance in order to provide couples with an easy way of understanding alimony laws in Indianapolis. 

Each state has its own set of laws governing alimony, which may be called spousal support or spousal maintenance instead of alimony, depending on the state. State law determines what alimony is called, what a court must find before ordering a party to pay alimony, the payment amount, and for how long a party must pay the other (Nolo). Indiana recognizes three circumstances under which a court can order spousal maintenance. These situations are described in the statute governing findings concerning maintenance (I.C. 31-15-7-2) and provide that if the court finds (1) a spouse is mentally or physically incapacitated in a manner that materially affects their ability to support themselves, incapacity maintenance may be awarded (2) if a spouse lacks sufficient property to meet their own needs AND is the primary custodian of a child who’s mental or physical capacity requires them to forego employment, they may be entitled to care-giver maintenance, or (3) that because of a spouse’s differing educational, background, and job training experience, due to interruptions during the marriage as a result of homemaking or child care responsibilities, and the current earning capacity of the spouse is significantly less than that of the other, rehabilitative maintenance may be necessary. 

Under the first two circumstances, the court can order maintenance to be paid in an amount and for a period of time that it considers appropriate, generally until the incapacity has ended or the child becomes able to care for him or herself. Rehabilitative maintenance, described in the third situation may also be ordered in any amount the court deems appropriate, but the period of time a party can be ordered to pay it may not exceed three years (I.C. 31-15-7-2(3)).  A trial court's power to award spousal maintenance is wholly within its discretion (Barton v. Barton, 47 N.E.3d 368, 375 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015)). The amount of the award is also within the courts discretion as Indiana has no statute governing the amount awarded and no alimony guidelines. The Clokey court did, however, point out that a party’s ability to pay the amount of the award should be taken into account (Clokey v. Clokey, 957 N.E.2d 1288 (Ind. App. 2011)). 

Spousal maintenance may be awarded to either party and is independent of any ‘marital fault’ as only the three situations described in the statute discussed above allow a party to be eligible to receive alimony. If spousal maintenance is awarded, and not being paid regularly, payment may be enforced by filing a petition for a finding of contempt or asking the court for an income withholding order (I.C. 31-15-7-10). Other civil remedies for enforcing a court order may also be available to enforce an order for spousal maintenance. Modification or revocation of an alimony order may also be requested if there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances which made the order unreasonable or the party paying the spousal maintenance was also ordered to pay child support in an amount greater than 20% of the amount that would have been order when applying the Indiana child support guidelines AND the order was issued at least 12 months prior to the request for modification nor revocation (I.C. 31-15-7-3). 

Understanding alimony laws in Indianapolis is important for anyone divorcing or considering divorce and asking for or being asked for spousal maintenance. If you have found yourself in this position, the experienced attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help protect your rights concerning financial obligations to your former spouse. 

This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.


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