When you are deciding whether to seek alimony from your spouse in a divorce action consider three things:
1. What are my future needs?
The judge will consider your current employment, if any, and your chances of meaningful, future employment. The judge must acknowledge your prior work experience, your training in a certain field, if any, and your background as well as your education. How old are you at the time of divorce? If you are not working full-time, why not, and how long has it been since you worked full-time? Why haven’t you worked full-time in the recent past? Did you and your spouse mutually agree that you would remain home to raise the kids, or otherwise did not need to work? Is the party seeking support healthy and able to work in some capacity?
Consider what your income is likely to be after the divorce is final, without any award of alimony, and what your financial obligations will be. Create a chart with your counsel or a financial advisor to determine what your cash flow will be like when comparing your expected income and expenses. If there is a delta between these figures, you will have to be sure to have a plan to bridge that gap so that you have piece of mind before the divorce is made final and everything is agreed-upon.
2. What is my spouse’s ability to pay me alimony?
Before adjudicating that one spouse will pay the other party alimony the judge must consider both the needs of the spouse to be paid and the ability to pay for the spouse that will be paying. If the spouse who will be paying alimony has a limited income, or is already burdened by significant financial obligations without alimony (perhaps that party is taking on all the marital debt, or is already paying 25% of their gross income for child support, etc.) then that party will not be able to pay alimony, or will only pay a small amount of alimony over a limited amount of time.
3. The assets being awarded:
Before making a decision on alimony amount and duration the judge will consider whether the spouse asking for alimony will be walking away from the divorce with significant marital assets. For example, if a divorce includes assets such as equity in the marital home which is being sold or refinanced, or stocks, or retirement holdings, then it is less likely that a party will receive alimony. The thought being that the party asking for alimony needs help bridging the gap between their income and expenses (say they will be spending $2,000 more per month than they will be earning in wages or other income after the divorce is finalized) that argument becomes undermined if that party is also being paid $300,000 in real estate equity or retirement. They are able to live off the equity or retirement distributed to them and use those resources to live off of until they reach an equilibrium.
Each jurisdiction is different so be sure to speak with more than one attorney in your jurisdiction about particulars, but I hope this offers a broad look at the considerations lurking just under the surface in any alimony dispute.
Have Questions? Contact The Law Office of Timothy M Sweet.