This is the next post in a series of articles about understanding spousal support or alimony awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous article discussed the concept of “underemployment” and how it may impact a court’s calculation of spousal support. When one party attempts to manipulate the amount of alimony to be paid to the other by purposefully reducing their income, the court may base the awarded amount on potential earnings vs. actual earnings. One must provide objective evidence to the court to prove underemployment. It is important to engage an experienced divorce attorney to assist you in presenting the argument to the court. This post will address how a settlement agreement may impact spousal support. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak to a lawyer.
As is the case with other types of legal disputes, it is not uncommon for parties to resolve their outstanding legal issues in divorce cases through a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is a binding contract between the divorcing parties. It will address the division of marital property, child custody and support, and ongoing spousal support obligations among any other outstanding claims. Divorcing couples are encouraged throughout the case to reach a settlement. Not only will this expedite the process, but it will also prevent the judge from controlling the outcome of the couple’s issues at trial. Before agreeing to settlement terms, however, it is essential to understand your legal rights. While reaching an agreement with one’s spouse may seem like an attractive option for a variety of reasons, hastily agreeing to an unfavorable settlement agreement may have permanent adverse consequences.
In the context of spousal support, one should have a basic understanding of the factors considered by Las Vegas courts prior to negotiating alimony amounts. Being uninformed about how judges typically approach spousal support calculations could lead a party to accept a smaller amount or agree to pay a higher amount than a court would have likely awarded. In addition, rushing through or foregoing the evidence gathering process, known as discovery, may result in reduced spousal support awards. After quickly settling a case without a thorough investigation of the evidence, one may learn that the spouse was withholding relevant information about finances that may have otherwise impacted the outcome at trial.
A party engaged in settlement talks should also consult with an attorney about the other contractually binding provisions of any proposed agreement. For instance, Nevada law typically permits one or both parties to request that spousal support awards be modified in the event of a significant change in circumstances. Events such as serious illness or injury, drastic income changes or changes in employment status may ordinarily justify a modification of a prior award. If, however, the parties’ settlement agreement includes a provision stating that the award is non-modifiable, Nevada courts will likely enforce the contract. This means that neither party will be able to seek modification, either to increase or reduce support obligations even if their respective circumstances have changed significantly. Failing to understand the consequences of this provision in a settlement agreement could be financially devastating.
I cannot overstate the importance of consulting with an experienced family law attorney if you are considering a divorce settlement agreement. Before signing any binding contract, you should have a complete understanding of the meaning and potential impact the agreement may have on your future. My firm has experience in divorce settlements and can assist you through the process. Contact my office today to speak with a Las Vegas lawyer.