At our law firm, we provide advice and advocacy to our divorce clients in matters of alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance. Nebraska law treats alimony, meaning the payment of support from one former spouse to the other, in a traditional manner that gives a judge fairly broad discretion to fashion a reasonable spousal support award.
We recently wrote in this space about upcoming changes in how federal tax law treats alimony. Today we will focus in on the basics of Nebraska alimony law, which state case law has recognized is a way to assist the recipient to become self-supporting.
A handful of other states have alimony statutes that significantly restrict what judges can do in term of fashioning alimony awards such as by limiting the circumstances in which a judge can order permanent alimony. But Nebraska’s alimony law remains relatively conventional.
Often divorcing parties negotiate a settlement agreement in which they agree to alimony terms, but if not, the judge will decide whether an award is reasonable and appropriate, considering:
- Circumstances of each party
- Length of marriage
- Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including children’s care and education
- Interruptions in a spouse’s career or education
- Whether the potential recipient could work “without interfering with the interests of any minor children” in his or her custody
The state statute directs the judge to consider the parties’ “relative economic circumstances” and the above factors in deciding whether to grant alimony and what the details will look like. For example, the court must decide how much will be due, how often payments are made and for how long.
Nebraska courts have developed extensive case law based on these standards. For example, some of the relevant factors courts have considered include:
- Each spouse’s income
- Child support owed
- Relative earning capacities
- Equity, justice or fairness
- Financial stress to payor
- Property division, including assignment of income-producing property
- Children’s ages
- Health problems and related expenses
- And others
Spousal maintenance ends if either party dies or the recipient marries again. In certain circumstances, a party may be able to return to court and have an alimony order amended or revoked for “good cause.”