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Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) in Idaho: When is it Available in a Divorce?

Posted by Bradley V. Sneed | May 31, 2024 | 0 Comments

You're ready to file for divorce, but you're worried you will not be able to financially support yourself once the divorce is final.  This is a common fear, especially when one spouse has been the primary money-earner and the other spouse has worked in the home or otherwise has deferred his/her career opportunities to aid the other spouse's career. What if you will not receive enough assets in the divorce to support yourself and you are not currently capable of supporting yourself through employment?  Idaho Code § 32-705 addresses this circumstance and allows a party to seek what Idaho law calls "spousal maintenance," commonly known as alimony in many other states. 

Idaho Code § 32-705 provides: "Where a divorce is decreed, the court may grant a maintenance order if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance: (a)  Lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs; and (b) Is unable to support himself or herself through employment." 

Is it important to note that both factors must be satisfied in order to qualify for a spousal maintenance award.  If the Court determines that an award of spousal maintenance is warranted, the Court must consider "all relevant factors" to determine the amount and length of time that such maintenance is necessary under the circumstances.  The factors enumerated in the statute to be considered by the Court (which are not exhaustive) include: 

            (a)  The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including the marital property apportioned to said spouse, and said spouse's ability to meet                         his or her needs independently;
            (b)  The time necessary to acquire sufficient education and training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to find employment;
            (c)  The duration of the marriage;
            (d)  The age and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
            (e)  The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;
            (f)  The tax consequences to each spouse;
            (g)  The fault of either party.

Based on the factors above, a Court has to consider whether the other spouse is financially capable of paying support and/or whether either spouse is at fault in the divorce. Even in circumstances where the divorce was filed as a no-fault divorce based on "irreconcilable differences," the Court still will consider the fault of either party in determining if spousal maintenance is appropriate.  Pelayo v. Pelayo, 154 Idaho 855, 860, 303 P.3d 214, 219 (Id. 2013).  Where "fault" is most commonly considered is where one party has been shown to have committed adultery during the marriage.  If the party seeking maintenance is proven to have committed adultery, he/she is much less likely to be awarded spousal maintenance.  On the other hand, if the party from whom maintenance is sought is the one that is proven to have committed adultery, the Court is more likely to award the requested maintenance, presuming all other legal qualifications have been satisfied. 

The Court's ultimate goal in awarding spousal maintenance is to ensure both spouses can financially support themselves after the divorce, as close as possible to the standard of living they each enjoyed during the marriage.     

When and How Long Can Spousal Support Be Ordered? 

Spousal maintenance may be awarded temporarily while the divorce is pending, for a fixed period of time after the divorce decree is entered, and/or for an indefinite period of time after divorce.  Divorce can take many months or sometimes much longer depending on many factors.  Therefore, sometimes during the divorce, one spouse may require financial assistance from the other spouse who earns more money.  This kind of temporary support may be ordered during a pending divorce.

Even after the divorce decree is entered, a temporary spousal support obligation may remain in place for a set period of time to allow the lower-earning spouse to receive training or education to assist and advance their career opportunities, so he/she can financially support themself.  Often, the lower-earning spouse can become self-supporting, but needs time and financial help to find proper employment. Based on the agreement of the parties or the evidence presented at trial, the Court will determine how much maintenance is to be paid and for what length of time.  Quite often temporary spousal maintenance is paid for periods of time between 1 and 4 years.  

Lastly, there are circumstances where a Court can order essentially permanent, continuing spousal support payments.   These situations are not common, but typically they arise where one spouse is completely unable to work to support himself/herself, due to old age or physical/mental disabilities.  This kind of permanent support will continue until the spouse receiving support is capable of supporting themself financially or passes away.

How Does the Court Determine the Amount of the Award? 

Unlike child support calculations, Idaho has no guidelines for the Court to rely upon to determine the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance to be paid each month. Generally, the Court has broad discretion to determine the amount of the award based on the finances of the parties, the marital lifestyle of the parties, and the statutory factors listed above.  Of course, parties can stipulate to the amount of spousal maintenance to be paid, if they can reach an agreement and want to avoid having the Court set the amount.  Parties are usually in a better position to determine how much is enough and/or how much the paying spouse can actually afford to pay each month. 

If you are contemplating filing for divorce, but you are concerned with your ability to support yourself financially though the divorce and/or after the divorce is final, contact Bradley Sneed with Sneed Law, PLLC and arrange a consultation to discuss the possibility of seeking and receiving spousal maintenance.     

About the Author

Bradley V. Sneed

Brad represents clients in family law (divorce, child custody/support modifications, guardianships), employment disputes (employers and employees), construction disputes, and insurance coverage dispute litigation.  If you find yourself faced with the need for legal guidance in any of these fields, contact Brad so he can take all steps necessary to protect you.


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