If you are in the middle of a separation or divorce, alimony may be on your mind. Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support or maintenance, is on-going financial support one spouse is court ordered to provide at separation and for a period of time after a marriage ends. Today, it is far less common for either a wife or husband to receive long term alimony than it has been in the past.
Alimony payments can be a difficult part of divorce process negotiations. There is temporary support, defined as court ordered monthly payment from one spouse to the other, while a family law case is on-going. Then there is permanent support, defined as the monthly payment from one spouse to the other, as ordered in your final divorce judgment. Permanent support can be for a couple of years or last for many years. There are 14 factors a judge or attorney would review when calculating a permanent support order.
In California, the court/attorney’s use a program to calculate temporary support. However, determining permanent support is much more complex due to the Family Law Code 4320 . Often people’s expectations for either paying or receiving financial support are unrealistic. The payor often unrealistically estimates what they might owe and the payee typically expects more than what is due to them.
Here are some important options to consider when navigating the world of alimony.
What’s Best for You Today
One of your best alimony options is to consult an attorney to transform your questions into a plan prior to initiating your divorce. Pre-divorce planning allows you to set financial goals, educate yourself about state laws, and make informed decisions that will empower you. The more thorough your planning strategy is the smoother your transition to financial independence will be.
Spousal maintenance is the most common form of alimony, but not the only option. Rather than being court-ordered, contractual alimony is when both divorcing parties reach an agreement on payment out of court. This can be in the form of a one-time fee or a short-term agreement to settle after divorce. Another out-of-court option is mediation, which is often easier because a neutral third-party professional works with both divorcing spouses during negotiations.
If you do go to court, it’s important to be realistic about your finances. What was your gross net salary during your marriage? How will your finances change post-divorce? Do you have an accurate budget of your day-to-day expenses? Furthermore, there are various options for how you structure your final settlement, including single lump-sum or monthly payments.
Regardless of which option you choose, pay attention to your specific needs. Stay-at-home parents in particular have their own unique set of considerations. However, if you do your research and hire the right attorney to represent you, you will be in a better position when it comes time to negotiate.
What’s Best for You Tomorrow
Alimony is often negotiated before going to trial, as 90 percent of cases eventually settle. But if your case is one of the few that goes to court, you need to be maximally prepared. The bottom line with alimony is to obtain financial security in a way that allows you independence and freedom. Be prepared to possibly obtain work if you were not working prior to divorce. And be sure to plan for either the termination of the support award or the modification of the order based on a change of circumstances. The idea that your spouse will continue to support you at the level you lived during marriage is inaccurate as after divorce typically, expenses go up in supporting two households, while income remains the same.
If alimony is a part of your divorce settlement discuss your case with an experienced family law attorney, like Buncher Family Law, before you file. A good attorney will be able to help you understand the basis of the law, the tax implications of your settlement, and the analysis of the various options you might consider. In the event you’re considering divorce after 10 years, the issue of spousal support often becomes a bit more complicated. Again, a good attorney is imperative in understanding and negotiating your final support or alimony order.