How to Help Make Your Alimony Payments Fair
Figuring out a just amount for alimony payments can be a difficult task for a judge. Most states give judges a great deal of discretion when it comes to awarding alimony payments. For this reason, if you are going through a divorce going to a judge can be a real gamble, regardless of whether you are the higher earning partner in the marriage, or the “junior” partner, if you will forgive the metaphor.
Here are some tips that could ultimately save your pocketbook and your sanity.
Come to Terms with Your Ex
The best way to make sure that everyone gets a fair shake is to come to terms with your ex for amounts that are fair for both of you. As much as possible you want to keep matters out of the hands of your lawyers. Although there are some divorce lawyers with integrity, others take pride in getting as much for their clients as possible. If you let your lawyers go at it, you will soon find yourself arguing your case before a judge. When you get into an adversarial situation with someone who may already have secondary motives for wanting to hurt you, you may not like the results.
Ideally, you should be able to work out a fair settlement with your spouse so that both of you get what is just. If you can both keep in mind a respect for your former feelings of affection for one another, a civil agreement may be possible.
Of course, we do not live in an ideal world, and a divorce is often not a situation that brings out our most noble affections. If you cannot come to a fair agreement, then you will have to take it to the next step.
Presenting Your Case
If the situation forces you to come before a judge, you should try to present your best case. You should do everything in your power to present the clearest, most accurate vision of your marriage as possible. The judge has a great deal of discretion when it comes to determining palimony. Here are some parameters they may use for making their decision:
Who is the central breadwinner? One of the key questions will be who made the greatest financial contribution to the marriage. If you earned three times as much as you spouse, that means you. In the old days, this used to be an easy question—the man was virtually always the breadwinner. These days, with one third of marriages having the wife with the higher salary and with so many couples both working, this might be more complicated than it seems. A marriage may also undergo different phases with one partner being the sole breadwinner while the other gets an advanced degree before entering the labor force and taking the financial reins.
How Long Did the Marriage Last? The length of marriage makes a huge difference as well. Judges tend to look at longer lasting marriages much more favorably for alimony payments than marriages that dissolved within a year. If a couple was married for twenty years, payments will tend to be greater than for those that only lasted a few months.
Did either partner sacrifice their financial future for the sake of the marriage? If one partner gave up his or her career in order to take care of the children or in order to accompany the other to a new job opportunity, the judge is likely to look on this sacrifice favorably.
Behavior Matters. Finally, how a spouse behaves during the marriage matters. If one spouse cheats or generally mistreats the other during the course of the marriage, it is likely that the court will view the victimized party favorably.
Here is one last tip. Remember that presentation is important. It will not be enough simply to say how things were. You will need to show corroborating evidence. Therefore, wherever possible, you want to have documents that back up your assertions about the nature of your marriage. Carefully collect these well in advance of the court date. Be prepared for your spouse to present a less than flattering view in opposition to yours.