Attorneys are always trying the tell clients and potential clients how judges determine alimony. There are statutes, cases and all sorts of guides. Websites talk about alimony guidelines, alimony calculators and all sorts of gadgets for calculating entitlement to and amounts of alimony.
All of these tools represent a beginning-and nothing more.
Alimony is the most difficult calculation to make.
Think about the different times within the divorce process when alimony is calculated:
1. Spouses trying to work it out on their own;
2. Spouses and their counsel trying to determine alimony outside of litigation;
3. Spouses, with or without attorneys, employ a financial professional to help them figure it out;
4. The divorce mediation process;
5. A settlement conference with a retired judge; or
Here is something you don’t know.
Not a single person at any of these levels has the magic that it takes to get it right for both you and your spouse!
That is why, on the same exact facts, judges, financial professionals and mediators, not to mention you and your spouse, will all likely arrive at very different results for both the dollar amount and duration of alimony.
So, if that is the bad new, then how on earth are you supposed to calculate alimony? Here are my 7 rules of alimony:
Rule 1-Take control and try to stay out of the courtroom.
Rule 2-Find a highly experienced divorce attorney with a great deal of financial expertise.
Rule 3-The longer your marriage and the greater your need, the more financial expertise you will want to employ to try to “get it right.”
Rule 4-If you are trying to defend against an over-reaching alimony claim, again, you need a highly experienced divorce attorney with a great deal of financial expertise.
Rule 5-If you are in mediation, choose the mediator wisely. If the mediator is an attorney, make sure to question the mediator’s financial expertise in calculating alimony. If the mediator is a retired judge, ask the same question!
Rule 6-If you end up going to court, make sure your attorney has a great deal of experience, knowing the tendencies and traits of the judge with regard to alimony. Some judges just plain hate alimony. Some don’t understand it. Some may have paid it. Some may have received it.
Rule 7-Don’t be a financial victim if that is within your control. Major alimony claims tend to be black and white. Very long marriages. Very large financial disparities. Major issues of illness or disability.
Here are some things to think about:
1. Alimony ends upon the death of the person paying it.
2. Alimony ends upon the re-marriage of the person receiving it.
3. Alimony might end or get reduced if there it would be unfair to continue it (unless it is contractual non-modifiable alimony).
4. If you rely on the alimony and for whatever reason it stops getting paid, by the time you get to court for a contempt hearing, you will be very far behind in all of your bills.
Remember and never forget that if you are seeking alimony or defending against it, a highly experienced divorce attorney with a financial background, as well as having advanced knowledge of the tendencies of judges, magistrates and mediators is what you need now.