What Voids Alimony Payments in Nevada?
By Jennifer Williams
The state of Nevada recognizes two forms of alimony: lump sum and permanent. Lump sum alimony is a specific amount of money the court orders one spouse to pay to the other all at once or in payments over time. Permanent alimony is a monthly amount the court orders be paid upon entry of the final divorce decree. Under Nevada law, permanent alimony ends if either spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries, unless the court orders otherwise. In certain other situations, however, alimony payments can be voided or at least modified.
Marital Settlement Agreements
The Nevada alimony statute requires that payments end when either spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries. The exception is when the parties agree to different terms in a marital settlement agreement. Once a marital settlement agreement is approved by the family law judge presiding over the divorce case, the agreement becomes a court order. In a marital settlement agreement, spouses may agree to terminate alimony upon the occurrence of any circumstances they choose. They may also agree that payments do not terminate at death or upon remarriage.
Divorcing spouses don't always agree on how to handle alimony, even if they have a marital settlement agreement that reflects agreement on other issues, such as property division and the custody and care of children. When the spouses can’t agree, the court decides if alimony should terminate for any reason other than death or remarriage, or if payments should continue after death or remarriage. Nevada courts consider the spouses' circumstances, and alimony disagreements are resolved in the final divorce decree, which becomes a court order upon entry. Nevada law gives judges the authority to order what they believe is equitable for the spouses, and both parties are bound by the resulting court order.
Cohabitation generally means living with an individual in a conjugal relationship rather than in a platonic arrangement as roommates. In the 1998 case of Gilman v. Gilman, the Nevada Supreme Court held that cohabitation only justifies reduction of alimony if the cohabitation benefits the receiving spouse financially. In other words, the spouse must receive financial support from the cohabiting partner to the extent that her need for alimony is reduced before the courts in Nevada will reduce the alimony payment based on the cohabitation. When the spouses have a marital settlement agreement that addresses cohabitation, however, the terms of that agreement control over Nevada law. If the spouses agree that cohabitation by the receiving spouse nullifies alimony, regardless of whether it improves her financial situation, the court will enforce the agreement as it is written.
Nevada law does not require that a marital settlement agreement specifically grant jurisdiction to the court before the court can consider modifying any of its terms. Either spouse may ask the court to modify alimony by increasing or decreasing the payment amounts at any time. The spouse requesting the modification must file a petition requesting it and the petition must state there has been a substantial change in the spouse's circumstances that justifies the request. A substantial change in circumstances under Nevada law means a 20 percent or greater change in the paying spouse's income, as substantiated by tax records, tax return evidence that the payer's income has decreased to the point that he is unable to meet his monthly obligation, or any other circumstances or evidence the court believes is proper to consider.
An attorney for more than 18 years, Jennifer Williams has served the Florida Judiciary as supervising attorney for research and drafting, and as appointed special master. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Jacksonville University, law degree from NSU's Shepard-Broad Law Center and certificates in environmental law and Native American rights from Tulsa University Law.