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Nevada Supreme Court Affirms Orders Relative to Alimony and Child Support Payments

In two unpublished opinions issued this month, the Nevada Supreme Court separately considered two of the most common issues arising in post-divorce cases: the modification of alimony payments, and the attempted reduction of child support payments.

In Wilde v. Wilde, the parties were divorced in 2010, and pursuant to their marital settlement agreement, the husband agreed to pay the wife $4,500 per month in alimony. A year later, the husband sought to reduce that monthly obligation, based upon his purported reduced monthly income.

When considering whether to reduce an alimony award in these circumstances, NRS 125.150(7) requires that a court “shall consider whether the [payor spouse’s income], as indicated on the spouse’s federal income tax return for the preceding calendar year, has been reduced to such a level that the spouse is financially unable to pay the amount of alimony the spouse has been ordered to pay.” Here, the husband did not provide his 2010 federal income tax return to the court to prove his income, but the parties stipulated that he made $300,000 that year. Based upon that stipulation as to the husband’s income, as well as other relevant factors, the district court allowed the husband’s motion to reduce his alimony payments. The wife appealed that decision.

On appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision. Despite the statute’s mandate that the court consider the husband’s income as shown on his tax return, the Court found that because the parties stipulated to the husband’s 2010 income, that amount was not in dispute, and therefore the court need not have reviewed the tax return. However, one justice dissented, opining that the review of the federal income tax return is a duty imposed upon the court that the parties could not alter by their stipulation.

The Nevada Supreme Court also affirmed a district court’s decision concerning child support payments in Halseth v. Halseth. There, the district court ordered the former husband to pay $2,274 per month in child support, based upon his last known income after concluding that the former husband was willfully underemployed. Per NSA 125B.080(8), when a court determines that a parent is willfully underemployed for the purpose of avoiding a child support obligation, the court may award child support “based upon the parent’s true potential earning capacity.” The burden of proof was on the former husband to show why he could not attain employment, and he was unable to present any such evidence. The Court affirmed the award, as well as the award of attorney fees to the former wife, which was based upon the disparity of the imputed incomes of the parties.

As these cases illustrate, divorce-related issues do not dissolve upon the finalization of divorce. Issues relative to the parties’ income, alimony payments, child custody, visitation, and child support payments often arise, and require competent legal representation for resolution. Contact a divorce attorney at Lagomarsino Law today for a free consultation to discuss these or other post-marital legal disputes.