Understanding Spousal Support in North Dakota

North Dakota allows for spousal support payments—also called “alimony”— when justice so requires in a divorce case. Spousal support is a court-ordered payment from one spouse to another during and/or after a divorce to provide economic relief to the financially disadvantaged spouse. 

Types and Duration of Spousal Support

North Dakota courts may order temporary, rehabilitative, or permanent spousal support.

  1. Temporary Support: Under North Dakota Century Code § 14-05-23, a party may be entitled to temporary support after the divorce petition is filed until a final judgment is entered. The goal of temporary support is to ensure that neither spouse is impoverished and forced to rely on public resources during the divorce process. 
  1. Rehabilitative Support: Rehabilitative support is awarded to help the disadvantaged spouse acquire an education, training, or work experience that will help the spouse get back on their feet and become self-supporting after the divorce. While the court expects both spouses to become financially independent, it understands that it may take some spouses longer than others. Rehabilitative support is temporary and lasts as long as the court deems necessary for the disadvantaged spouse to become educated or skilled enough to gain employment to meet their financial needs. In Bullock v. Bullock, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that a disadvantaged spouse may be entitled to rehabilitative support even he/she remarries.
  1. Permanent Support: Just as it sounds, permanent support lasts a lifetime. This type of award is rare and is only awarded when the court finds a financially dependent spouse is unable to become self-supporting due to significant circumstances, such as advanced age, lengthy absence from the job market, and/or mental/physical disabilities.

* Under N.D.C.C. § 14-05-24.1, unless both spouses agree in writing, remarriage of the disadvantaged spouse or habitual cohabitation with another individual in a relationship analogous to a marriage for longer than one year, terminates an award of spousal support (this does not apply to rehabilitative spousal support).

How is Spousal Support Determined?

Spousal support is discretionary in that North Dakota courts consider a multitude of factors (known as the RuffFischer guidelines) when determining whether to award spousal support. These factors include:

  • Age of the spouses;
  • Earning abilities;
  • Length of the marriage;
  • Conduct of both spouses during the marriage;
  • Each spouse’s specific circumstances and necessities;
  • Both spouses’ health and physical conditions;
  • The financial circumstances of both spouses; and
  • Any other matters the court finds material.

It’s important to note that in North Dakota, a fault-based divorce, such as abuse, neglect, or desertion, may be considered by the court when determining to award spousal support. 

Unlike child support awards, there is no specific formula for a court to use when determining the type, amount, or duration of a spousal support award.

Spousal Support and Taxes

For divorces finalized on or before December 31, 2018, the IRS permitted paying spouses to deduct spousal support payments and required spouses receiving support to report the payments as income. However, under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, starting January 1, 2019, spousal support is no longer deductible and cannot be considered by the receiving spouse as income. It’s important to find an attorney who understands the ramifications of these new tax rules.

Conclusion

If you or a loved one are going through or contemplating getting a divorce and spousal support is at issue, it may be in your best interest to have an experienced family law attorney at your side to help guide you through the process.

Please contact Rosenquist Law Office at (701) 775-0654 or email us at lawinfo@rosenquistlawoffice.com.

The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as so.