Photo of alimony definition written on paperThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing alimony awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. My last entry provided an overview of the topics to be discussed in this series. It also stressed the importance of retaining a lawyer with experience in family law and divorce cases to represent your interests. In this post, I will address how Las Vegas courts determine whether to award spousal support to a party in a divorce. I will also discuss the factors a court will consider in calculating the alimony amount. Given the potentially significant impact this determination will have on the divorcing parties, it is imperative to retain counsel to help you understand your rights and obligations. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak to an attorney.

Many states have adopted laws that set forth the guidelines and formulas to determine the amount of alimony one spouse must pay to another when they divorce. In other states, courts attempt to divide assets and debts evenly between the parties under an equitable division of property standard. In Las Vegas and throughout Nevada, on the other hand, a judge has discretion to decide whether alimony should be awarded and, if so, the amount of support and length of the award. It is not uncommon for Las Vegas attorneys to refer to guidelines established by an earlier Nevada court decision, known as the Tonopah case when estimating spousal support. In the Tonopah case, the court created a formula for alimony calculations. While these guidelines may be a helpful tool, the decision specifically stated that they were not not binding on future determinations. A judge is not bound by this formula and the courts will decide each case in its own discretion.

A judge will consider a variety of factors when reviewing alimony awards. The financial position of each party when leaving the marriage is of primary importance. A court may consider whether one spouse contributed to the other’s career development, either by a direct financial contribution or by sacrificing their own career so the other might excel. This may be particularly important if one spouse earns substantially more than the other. The judge may also consider the extent to which a person must be retrained before seeking gainful employment to support themselves. Other elements such as how long the marriage lasted, whether either spouse has child support obligations, or the parties’ respective earning potential may be important as well. Consider the following example. During a couple’s 20 year marriage, the husband worked two jobs so that the wife could attend medical school. After she became a doctor, the husband quit his jobs to become a stay-at-home dad so that the wife could maintain a successful medical career. At the time of their divorce she was the sole breadwinner for the family. A court may determine that the husband is entitled to alimony for a period of time in light of the length of marriage and their substantial difference in financial position. If the husband relied solely on the wife’s income and sacrificed his employment prospects in support of her career, the court may award him significant spousal support.

Of course, each case will differ depending upon the facts of the specific situation. To fully understand how your circumstances may impact a support award, contact an experienced family law attorney to explain your rights. If you are considering a divorce, contact my office today to speak to a lawyer.