Alimony in Nevada

April 7, 2008

Alimony (often known as spousal support or spousal maintenance) is alive and well in Nevada. Unlike other states, there is no statutory formula for calculating alimony in Nevada – meaning its all up to the discretion of the judge and represents a huge fee generating opportunity for lawyers.

There was an attempt to devise a alimony formula in 1997 (known as the Tonopah formula). The formula takes into account the marriage duration and lower earning spouse’s education, disability status, and age.  The calcuation can range from 0% to 50% of the difference in incomes (after deducting child support), increasing with a longer marriage, older spouse, more disability, and less education. In their wisdom, however, the Nevada Supreme Court has banned family court judges from using the formula to determine alimony.

The result is a list of “factors” to be weighted. The factors vary from case to case and even the same factors have been given more or less weight in different cases. Thus, the judge must weigh each of the relevant factors in determining an alimony award and duration.  These factors include:

  • age and health of the weaker party (usually the wife)
  • property/assets of the wife
  • whether wife contributed to the development of the husband’s career
  • husband’s income
  • wife’s premarital job training
  • wife’s job and income potential
  • kids
  • marriage duration

The wife can also be awarded “rehabilitative” alimony to enable her to train to re-enter the workforce. Alimony can also be awarded indefinitely (although this seems to be getting rarer).  Alimony is also taxable to the recipient and tax deductible by the payer (actually lowering your adjustable gross income).  

In my experience, much money can be saved by agreeing to use the Tonopah formula and moving on. Litigation over alimony is costly (to gather evidence on all the factors) and the outcome is extremely uncertain because the judge can rule in almost completely arbitrary manner (and doesn’t have to justify his or her decision). Unfortunately, many lawyers like to tell their clients they can get a much better deal than the formula (my ex was given a number almost double that of the formula and eventually received about 50% more at great cost to us both). My advice go with the formula or something close and get a stipulation (agreement) in writing filed with the court ASAP.

Personally, I believe that alimony is simply “child support for adults” and, except for a few extreme cases, has outlived its used-by date.  


Some thoughts on alimony

December 20, 2007

Originally posted as a comment to this post on Glenn Sacks’ blog:

One basic argument for alimony is that a man develops his human capital because his wife frees him up to do so and in the process neglects the development of her own human capital. This “human capital” gained by the husband is community property and thus the wife is entitled to a share of it upon divorce. This gives rise to alimony, which is a share of future earnings of the community’s human capital (this is why a wife owes no services to the husband in exchange for alimony as some guys would expect).
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