Alimony is a payment or series of payments by one spouse to his or her former spouse enabling the receiving spouse to enjoy a better lifestyle than would be possible without the alimony. The topic of alimony is often one of the most challenging aspects of the divorce or legal separation process. We are sensitive to the emotions associated with paying or receiving alimony and strive to reach an alimony plan, when applicable, that meets our client’s needs.
Term and Amount
Typically, an alimony award contains two main parts a) the term or duration of the alimony and b) the amount of the alimony.
There is no set alimony rule or formula. For couples choosing traditional adversarial divorce, before entering alimony orders after a trial, a judge is required to consider the following so called statutory criteria:
- Length of the marriage
- Causes for the dissolution of the marriage
- Age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, and needs of each of the spouses
- Property division orders
- Desirability of the custodial parent’s securing employment
Notwithstanding these factors, the trial judge has tremendous discretion in how he or she weighs them and fashions the financial orders. Two judges hearing the same evidence in a trial might enter vastly different orders. Therefore, it is impossible for even the most experienced lawyer to predict the outcome of either the term or amount of alimony at trial with any reliability.
In mediation and collaborative cases, at most the called statutory criteria and what a court might order at trial constitute just one standard for the spouses to weigh in reaching their post divorce financial plan. Mediation and collaborative clients are not limited to considering what a court is permitted to or might consider important. For this reason, mediated and collaborative settlements are typically better suited for the particular family involved since a) the solutions are created by the spouses for their own family, b) the spouses are not hampered by the same restraints applicable to judges, and c) the plan can reflect the factors the spouses value whether or not included in the statutory criteria. Note for example what is not in the legal list- income tax impact, Title IX or estate planning considerations such as planning for grandchildren, extended family needs and relationships, cultural values.