What Is Maintenance and When Can a Court Order it?

While Indiana does not have alimony, it does have spousal maintenance. Maintenance is different from alimony, as alimony is a part of property division and maintenance is intended to help support the spouse receiving it. Spousal maintenance can be agreed upon by the parties, or awarded by the court, under very limited circumstances. This blog explores spousal maintenance agreements and awards.

There are two main statutes governing maintenance in Indiana. The first statute allows the court to enter an order for maintenance in legal separation and final dissolution decrees. This statutes provides that the court must make certain findings before awarding maintenance. 

The second statute, describes the findings concerning maintenance that a court should make before ordering maintenance. “A court may make the following findings concerning maintenance: (1) If the court finds a spouse to be physically or mentally incapacitated to the extent that the ability of the incapacitated spouse to support himself or herself is materially affected, the court may find that maintenance for the spouse is necessary during the period of incapacity, subject to further order of the court. (2) If the court finds that: (A) a spouse lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for the spouse's needs; and (B) the spouse is the custodian of a child whose physical or mental incapacity requires the custodian to forgo employment; the court may find that maintenance is necessary for the spouse in an amount and for a period of time that the court considers appropriate. (3) After considering: (A) the educational level of each spouse at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced; (B) whether an interruption in the education, training, or employment of a spouse who is seeking maintenance occurred during the marriage as a result of homemaking or child care responsibilities, or both; (C) the earning capacity of each spouse, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and length of presence in or absence from the job market; and (D) the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse who is seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment; a court may find that rehabilitative maintenance for the spouse seeking maintenance is necessary in an amount and for a period of time that the court considers appropriate, but not to exceed three (3) years from the date of the final decree.”

While the second statute describes the situations when a court can order spousal maintenance, it does not provide any guidelines on determining the amount that may be ordered, and simply states that the amount shall be one “the court considers appropriate”. In the absence of a formula for calculating maintenance, the court has a lot of discretion when determining the amount to be paid. The Indiana Court of Appeals did place one limitation on the amount of a maintenance award  when it found that an amount exceeding 50% of the obligor’s weekly adjusted income was inappropriate. 

In spite of the limited circumstances in which a court can order maintenance, and the cap on the amount that can be ordered, parties are free to enter into an agreement providing for maintenance when none of the statutory circumstances apply and in any amount they choose. It should be noted that if an agreement for maintenance is one which the court could not have ordered, the

court will have no authority to later modify that agreement. Indiana code does allow for modification or revocation of maintenance orders for all other maintenance agreements and orders. “…modification may be made only: (1) upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable; or (2) upon a showing that: (A) a party has been ordered to pay an amount in child support that differs by more than twenty percent (20%) from the amount that would be ordered by applying the child support guidelines; and (B) the order requested to be modified or revoked was issued at least twelve (12) months before the petition requesting modification was filed.”

The statutory requirements for obtaining a maintenance order or modifying one can be complex and maintenance agreements require careful thought and consideration in their formulation. The experienced attorneys at Ciyou & Associated, P.C. can help protect your rights when entering into a settlement agreement or presenting the appropriate evidence to establish or modify one.

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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