We have shared information in this space before about alimony, also called spousal support, and the standards under which it is awarded in Nebraska. For example, in this previous post we covered the basics of Nebraska spousal support law, which is fairly traditional and gives judges wide discretion to fashion an award.

Divorcing spouses often negotiate the terms of their divorce, including whether alimony will be paid, its amount and duration. If they cannot agree, the judge in the divorce must make reasonable alimony decisions. State statute requires that the judge weigh these factors:

  • Each spouse’s circumstances
  • Duration of marriage
  • Contributions to the marriage, including to education and care of children
  • Interrupted education or career
  • Whether a parent with custody could both work and meet the children’s interests

Nebraska courts have considered other relevant factors as well such as income, earning capacity, fairness under the circumstances and others.

Separate versus marital property

The Nebraska Supreme Court has held that it is proper for a court when deciding alimony issues to look not only on marital property, but also nonmarital property. Marital property is anything earned or acquired during the marriage (except gifts or inheritances to only one spouse) and nonmarital property — also called premarital or separate — is property owned only by one spouse because they owned it before the marriage, they inherited it or received it as a gift.

What is significant is that from a property ownership perspective, a spouse or ex-spouse does not have ownership rights to the separate property of the other spouse. But, the Nebraska Supreme Court has said that it is not improper to consider the separate property of a spouse who may be ordered to pay alimony.

For example, in the 2018 case of Wiedel v. Wiedel, the Supreme Court said that it was reasonable to order the husband to pay $2,500 monthly for 10 years even though it only left him with net monthly income of $1,680.56. One reason the court concluded this was because the husband was awarded the marital home and working farmland worth $2.5 million, some of it inherited. The “income-producing farmland valued in excess of $2 million is not irrelevant to the alimony determination.”

Alimony law is complex, and an attorney can provide guidance whether the client is the potential recipient or probable payor. Interestingly, since in our state farmland often is passed down through inheritance or family gift, its significance as a resource in alimony awards is likely not uncommon.