Even for the happiest couples, money and love mix as well as oil and water. A large income disparity between spouses can create problems in a marriage, and perhaps even more serious issues in a divorce.
Indiana follows the equitable distribution model for property division in divorce. This means that in divorce, the parties must divide their marital property in a way that meets standards of fairness under state law. At first glance, it may seem fair to divide everything equally, but property division settlements are rarely 50-50.
For example, imagine a situation where, during the marriage, one spouse earned a substantial salary in the finance industry while the other gave up a career to stay home and care for the house and children. Even if they divide their marital property equally, the high-earning spouse will be able to keep working and earning a good living while the other will not. The stay-at-home spouse will run through their divorce settlement money quickly.
To get around this kind of unjust result, the principles of equitable distribution demand that the disadvantaged spouse receives significantly more than 50% of the marital property in the settlement.
In some cases, even a more generous settlement is not enough to overcome the disparity. In these cases, spousal maintenance (also known as alimony) may be necessary.
Indiana courts may order maintenance in cases involving a big income disparity between the spouses. In most cases, this maintenance is considered temporary and “rehabilitative.” It is intended to give the disadvantaged spouse time to pursue the education or training necessary to begin earning a living that approaches the standards they enjoyed during the marriage. However, this type of maintenance can only last for up to three years.
Those who are beginning the process of divorce can speak to a family law attorney about how the income disparity in their marriage will affect their divorce.