New Mexico Spousal Support Lawyer

Alimony is one of the most controversial issues in a Bernalillo County family law case. Many obligees, who are mostly women, see alimony as an essential way to address fundamental economic inequities in divorce cases. Many obligors, who are mostly men, view spousal support as little more than an economic penalty. As outlined below, the subjective alimony laws in New Mexico attempt to balance these competing concerns, both of which are legitimate.

Whatever your view on the philosophy of alimony, a New Mexico alimony lawyer from Stratton Family Law is a strong voice for you during court hearings settlement negotiations. These hearings include pretrial hearings, during which the judge makes important decisions about family support matters, including alimony. Negotiation skills are important as well. A New Mexico alimony lawyer must know when to stand firm and when to compromise.

Eligibility Matters

Everyone is entitled to spousal support in New Mexico, but not everyone receives it. An obligee must make a motion in court and prove financial need, based on a number of factors, including:

  • Future earning capacity of each spouse,
  • Obligee’s meaningful efforts, if any, to become economically self-sufficient,
  • Duration and standard of living during the marriage,
  • Marital and non-marital property award, and
  • Prenuptial agreement between the spouses.

That last bullet point is an important one. Judges usually approve almost any spousal support caps or other limits in a prenuptial agreement, as long as each spouse was represented by independent counsel throughout the process.

Overall, alimony eligibility is based on the obligee’s financial need and the obligor’s payment ability. Payment ability is sometimes hard to determine, especially if the obligor is self-employed and/or conceals income. Attorneys usually unravel even the most complex income concealment scheme during discovery.

Amount and Duration of Payments

Different obligees have different financial needs. So, there are several different types of alimony available in New Mexico, such as:

  • Temporary: Especially if they did not anticipate the divorce, many obligees need help paying divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and rental property deposits. A judge could order the other spouse to pay these and other expenses. Temporary spousal support ends when the judge closes the case.
  • Rehabilitative: The most common kind of alimony in New Mexico is essentially extended temporary alimony. In order to become self-sufficient, many obligees need to finish a college degree or accept a low-paying position to re-enter the workforce. Rehabilitative alimony gives obligees the resources to do these things.
  • Transitional: Normally, this form of spousal support crosses the line into income redistribution. Transitional alimony could be appropriate if the obligee’s standard living would significantly decline following a divorce. Usually, judges limit transitional alimony to the length of the marriage.
  • Indefinite: The rarest form of alimony is available if the spouses were married more than about twenty years and the obligee cannot become self-sufficient due to a crippling disability, or perhaps due to custody of a seriously disabled child.

In some cases, the obligor’s death does not end payments. In these cases, the judge usually requires the obligor to obtain a separate life insurance policy.

Judges have considerable discretion in terms of the duration of payments. They have similar discretion regarding the amount of payments. Typically, the obligee requests an amount based on his/her circumstances and the aforementioned factors. Next, the obligor presents a counter-offer.

Modification Matters

Economic factors exclusively determine the amount and duration of spousal support payments. Financial or emotional factors could change the amount and/or duration at a later date.

Income change is the most common basis for a motion to modify the amount and/or duration of payments. Usually, the change must be:

  • Substantial: A 10 percent income change, up or down, is usually a substantial income change. The moving party must also prove the income change is permanent.
  • Legitimate: An ex-spouse must bring a motion to modify in good faith. Obligees cannot do nothing and expect the obligor to pay the bills. Obligors cannot quit their jobs or hide their income to avoid their financial responsibilities.
  • Unanticipated: The obligor’s retirement doesn’t automatically terminate a spousal support obligation. Arguably, retirement is an anticipated change.

Emotional changes usually involve the obligee’s remarriage. As a matter of law, remarriage instantly terminates spousal support payments. If the obligee is in a marriage-like relationship, a judge could take similar action. Some factors to consider include the length of the relationship and any joint financial activity, like a joint purchase.

Alimony is usually an important component of an equitable property division. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Albuquerque, contact Stratton Family Law. We routinely handle matters in Bernalillo County and nearby jurisdictions.