I’m continuing the question of alimony because it has so many factors and it has to be looked at on a case by case basis. Hopefully, you’ll learn something by reading the series on alimony.
Recently I was representing someone who had ample education and had made more than $50,000 when she first married her husband. After the couple married and she had a child, she stopped work to take care of the child. A few more years went by and she had another child. Her spouse continued to grow in his career and the two of them grew apart. She began to suspect her husband was having an affair, but couldn’t prove it. She was desperate to keep her marriage together. But the problems continued.
When she came to me, she and her parents were adamant that she had to be awarded alimony. They wanted to, “Make him pay”. This isn’t unusual, I hear it frequently. But their idea of making him pay and the law on alimony were vastly different. She had become completely dependent on her husband and the thought of surviving without his income was scary. She would research the internet and tell me all of the pitfalls that awaited her as a single parent. I would do my best to reassure her and help her see that she will be able to survive.
As we began to get closer to litigation, her panic didn’t subside.
How to Prepare Your Alimony Case
This is what I ask my clients to do to prepare for an alimony case:
- Come up with a budget with realistic numbers once they didn’t have their spouse footing the bill. This included doing research on the cost of homes in the zip code they wanted to live in, finding out the cost of health insurance, checking the average costs of utilities.
- Doing a job search to see what kinds of jobs they could apply for and what deficits they may have for the jobs.
- I had them research what steps they would need to take to qualify for the jobs that would pay them enough to support themselves. Then, I wanted them to find out how long it would take and what the cost would be.
What I really wanted her to do was stop obsessing over what could go wrong. After being a divorce attorney for so long, I know that people DO make it. They find a way and they often thrive beyond what they think is possible. We went to mediation and ultimately arrived at five years of alimony. My suggestion was to include other things besides alimony to help her make ends meet. For instance, he is going to provide her with money for visiting her family for five years. He is going to pay a pro rata share instead of half of some of the children’s expenses. She was going to pay a limited amount of childcare. He was going to provide her with money for clothes or extraordinary expenses every year.
Was the award all that she wanted? No. But what you want, and what is reasonable to expect from the Court are often two different things. The biggest problem for her case and alimony is her advanced education and her previous rate of pay. The job market is also laden with jobs now. I couldn’t make the argument that she wouldn’t be able to get a job in this climate. Her family wanted him to “pay” and while we may be able to make the case of an affair, we may not. And then, you’ve got the Court’s opinion on how long spousal support should be in a case like this. I felt good about the final result. She will be able to make her entire budget with his help the first couple of years and by the third year the alimony was a bit less. But by then, she definitely will be able to return to her previous rate of pay.
It was imperative that she have a qualified attorney to fight for her award of alimony. When we went to mediation, we had real numbers and valid arguments to make there and in Court if we had been forced to litigate.