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New Mexico Spousal Support & Alimony

There are several factors to consider in determination of spousal support.

Spousal Support (Alimony) and Interim Maintenance Spousal support (also called “alimony”) can be awarded in a New Mexico divorce case, but the burden is on the spouse seeking the support to show why he/she needs it. Typically a couple must be married for at least five years before the court will consider a request for alimony. People who only co-habitate, without being legally married to each other, are not eligible for alimony in New Mexico. Separate Interim Maintenance Payments, payments made from one spouse to the other, although still married, when they are no longer living together as husband and wife can also be awarded by the courts.

Spousal Support (Alimony)

How much spousal support (alimony) will the courts order? There is no fixed formula. There is a burden on the person asking for alimony to prove the need for a specific dollar amount each month to maintain a reasonable standard of living and the other spouse’s ability to pay that amount. There is also no gender specification; either spouse, or both, may request alimony. New Mexico Financial and Family Law works with their clients to determine from experience and, in complex cases, in coordination with financial advisors whether and how much spousal support should be requested by the client or to anticipate, and perhaps counter, the spouse’s request.

Factors used to determine the amount of alimony to be paid by one spouse to the other include:

  • the ability to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, considering the respective earning capacities of the spouses
  • the marketable skills of the supported spouse, the job market for those skills, the education or training needed to develop marketable skills, and the need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment
  • the impairment of present or future earning capacity due to periods of unemployment during the marriage devoted to domestic duties
  • the contribution of the supported spouse to enable the other spouse to the attain education, training, a career or a professional license
  • the ability of the payer to make support payments taking into account his/her earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living
  • the needs of each spouse based on the standard of living established during the marriage
  • the obligations and assets of each spouse
  • the duration of the marriage
  • the ability of the supported spouse to be employed without unduly interfering with child care responsibilities
  • the age and health of the respective spouses

How long does spousal support last? The historically traditional form of long-term alimony – where it is payable until the receiving spouse dies or remarries – is the most difficult form of alimony to be awarded. This is mostly because the courts want to see the parties move on with their lives after the divorce and be financially self-sufficient. Such long-term alimony is usually reserved for cases of lengthy marriages and where one spouse was mostly a took care of the home and children, has limited education or employment skills, and there will likely always be a significant disparity in incomes. There are two other types of alimony of shorter duration: transitional alimony which is usually for 6 – 24 months to help the receiving spouse get established and start working and rehabilitative alimony which involves financial help while the recipient is going to school to earn a degree or a skill that will lead to a decent-paying occupation.

Within each category of spousal support above there are two forms, modifiable and unmodifiable. Unless the final decree awarding alimony says the amount or conditions are “non-modifiable,” then the receiving spouse can try to get more money if his/her needs change so much so that the present alimony amount is insufficient to meet basic needs. Conversely, if the paying spouse’s income situation changes (due to loss of employment or taking early retirement, for example), then the paying spouse can also go back to court to try to lower the amount. Divorces are very complex legal issues but the addition of potential long term spousal support makes a strong case for retaining an attorney who is very familiar with the intricacies of alimony and has experts available to assess true needs. New Mexico Financial and Family Law can provide you with that service.

Interim Spousal Maintenance

As stated earlier, Interim Spousal Maintenance can be provided by the courts to a spouse during the time when they are no longer living together as husband and wife for the support of the spouse and the children in his/her custody. This may or may not lead to permanent maintenance (spousal support or alimony). The amount awarded, if any, is up to the courts but they usually take into account the needs of the children and the relative needs of the spouses until a final settlement is reached.

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