How Is Alimony (also referred to as Spousal Support) Determined?

By Bob Matteucci

Imagine a wife and mother, who willingly stayed home to care for the kids, getting served with divorce papers after the last child graduates high school. Or a husband who worked two jobs in order to put his wife through medical school getting dumped on Match Day. Or the spouse with significant medical issues whose partner no longer wants the burden of taking care of them. 

These are just a few examples of situations where a New Mexico court might determine alimony payments are appropriate. During his many years in practice, Attorney Bob Matteucci has been involved in cases like these where it is necessary to negotiate a spousal support agreement that is fair to the spouse who needs alimony as well as the one paying it. Figuring out if alimony payments are appropriate, and what format they should take is something he regularly assists clients with. 

What Is Alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is money paid by one former spouse to the other. These funds are intended to smooth the recipient’s transition to post-divorce life or correct an unfair earning power imbalance. These payments can take many different forms:

  • Transitional. This is money intended to supplement the income of the receiving partner for a limited amount of time. Usually awarded for a year or less, transitional spousal support helps the recipient get established in his or her post-divorce life.
  • Rehabilitative. This form of spousal support helps the recipient get the education or job training he or she needs to be financially self-sufficient after the divorce. It is especially helpful if the spouse’s career was put on hold during the marriage.
  • Modifiable. This is money awarded to a spouse for an indefinite period. In many cases, it is paid until either the receiving or paying party dies, or the recipient remarries. However, it may increase, decrease or stop entirely depending on a variety of factors.
  • Non-modifiable. This is money awarded to a spouse in set monthly payments for a specific period of time. 
  • Lump sum. This is a fixed amount of spousal support paid all at once. 

When Is Alimony Appropriate? 

Every divorcing couple must consider whether it is fair to go their separate ways without one party paying the other alimony. Some factors to consider when making this decision include:

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The age and health of the spouses
  • The current and future earning abilities of the spouses
  • How much time it would take to acquire job training or education to re-enter the workforce
  • The ability of a spouse to work without interfering with childcare responsibilities
  • The standard of living the spouses enjoyed during marriage
  • The degree to which devotion to the domestic duties of marriage impaired a spouse’s career prospects
  • Whether the spouse requesting alimony contributed to the other spouse’s career during the marriage
  • The assets of both spouses
  • The financial needs and responsibilities of both spouses

Many couples decide that alimony payments are not necessary in light of our state’s asset division laws. New Mexico is a community property state, which means all assets and debts accrued during the marriage are owned equally. Many times dividing them up puts each former partner on equal footing. 

It is important to note that under New Mexico law, spousal support payments are only available to formerly married individuals. This includes same-sex couples. Cohabitating partners are not entitled to spousal support payments. 

Serving New Mexico Families with Dignity & Compassion 

Attorney Bob Matteucci focuses on negotiating spousal support agreements that are fair to both parties. When an amicable agreement can be reached outside of the courthouse, everyone benefits. 

If you have questions about alimony payments, Matteucci Family Law is here for you. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation with our experienced family law team. 

About the Author
Bob Matteucci is a board certified family law specialist, with a statewide practice in the area of divorce and family law.