Divorce alimony payments

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When a couple files for divorce, it is not uncommon for a lower-earning spouse (or the spouse with the lower earning capacity) to need financial assistance in order to get back on his or her feet. This helps through the transition and/or to secure their longer-term financial future into retirement.

Divorce alimony payments

In court in PA, an assigned judge uses 17 factors (listed below) to determine whether alimony is necessary or not. The judge also orders how much will be paid from one spouse to another, the manner in which these payments will be made, and for how long.

This can take months, if not several years to resolve and can be quite a tedious and exhausting process. Back and forth negotiations between opposing attorneys and numerous in-person court hearings in equitable distribution may be necessary, racking up potentially exhorbitant legal fees.

The good news is that spouses never have to go to court to settle differences over alimony.

An attorney-mediator who is experienced in divorce and alimony matters in court, can educate both you and your spouse on the general mechanics of alimony, its function and purpose, and the rationale behind each of the 17 factors in the alimony statute so that couples are placed in a better position to apply alimony to their particular needs and circumstances. The attorney-mediator is also present during the negotiation as a neutral third-party to ensure a fair process that is designed to protect and provide for both spouses involved.

In this sense, if you and spouse mediate, you have the best of both worlds in that you gain a clear understanding of how alimony works and how it is applied, as well as a reasonable range or general reference for how a court would typically view your particular case. From there, you retain control and discretion over how alimony will be resolved for your case, rather than placing these very critical decisions in the hands of a court system with unpredictable outcomes that are outside of your control.

Getting organized and preparing for divorce mediation?

Here's something that courts don't necessarily require, but is actually one of the best ways I have found to help spouses resolve alimony in a mediated divorce. I have each spouse create a budget that reflects an estimate of their post-divorce living expenses which allows them to gain a much better sense of what they will need in order to comfortably live in a household, and also be able to adequately support their children in that household, if children are involved. Likewise, the payer of alimony will prepare their own budget to determine how much they are reasonably able to afford to pay and for how long, consistent with the financial needs of the payee spouse.

At the end of the day, in divorce mediation, spouses feel that the payments end up being realistic and affordable.

Below are the 17 alimony factors that we thoroughly discuss and consider during the negotiation to achieve the fairest alimony settlement possible:

  1. The relative earnings of both spouses.
  2. The duration of the marriage.
  3. The ages and physical, mental and emotional states of the two spouses.
  4. The sources of income of both spouses. This includes medical, retirement, insurance or other benefits.
  5. The expected future earnings and inheritances of the two spouses.
  6. The degree to which one spouse has contributed to the other spouse’s education, training or increased earning potential.
  7. The degree to which a spouse will be financially affected by their position as the custodian of a minor child.
  8. The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage.
  9. The relative education of the parties. This also considers the amount of time it would take for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire the education or training necessary to find employment.
  10. The relative assets and liabilities of the two spouses.
  11. The property each spouse brought to the marriage.
  12. The degree a spouse contributed as a homemaker.
  13. The relative needs of the two spouses.
  14. The marital misconduct of either of the spouses during the marriage. “Abuse” is in this context shall have the meaning given to it under Section 6102.
  15. The federal, state and local tax consequences of the alimony.
  16. Whether the spouse seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including items in Chapter 35 relating to property rights, to provide for their reasonable needs.
  17. Whether the spouse seeking alimony is incapable of supporting themselves through appropriate employment.

It's important to note that neither in court, nor in mediation, is gender taken into account as a factor to determine alimony. Alimony is strictly focused on the true financial needs of the spouse in need of the same. According to a recent report by Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends, the number of fathers who are staying-at-home to raise kids has significantly increased, especially those in their 40's, and so it is becoming more commonplace than ever for men to receive alimony payments as part of a divorce settlement.

Once alimony is decided in mediation, these terms are then put into the marital settlement agreement which becomes a fully enforceable court order that legally protects both parties in the same way as if they had gone to court to resolve alimony.

Because spouses arrived at the alimony number with such scrutiny together, they are often more likely to believe the payment is fair and therefore abide by their agreement.

If the circumstances of either spouse change significantly, the court can decide to modify, suspend or terminate the alimony order.

With mediation, there is no need to go to court if circumstances change. The agreement can have provisions in it that state that alimony can be modified under special conditions like changes in future income, remarriage, or disability.

I hope this article has provided you with a greater sense of security about the efficacy of the divorce mediation process to adequately resolve your alimony issue, to the satisfaction of both you and your spouse.

alimony for your divorce?

Divorce alimony payments

Cris Pastore, Esq. is president and attorney-mediator at Main Line Family Law Center, a divorce mediation firm with 7 offices along the Main Line and Center City, Philadelphia. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Cris has focused exclusively on divorce mediation since 2007, when he grew increasingly frustrated by destructive nature of the court-contested divorce process. Cris has made it his personal mission to revolutionize this area of practice to preserve family relationships and help families emerge healthy and whole. Follow Cris at @healthy_divorce.

divorce alimony payments

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Know your options for paying alimony when getting a divorce

Divorce alimony payments

No one wants to talk about alimony, and no one wants to pay it either, especially for a long period of time. But alimony is part of a divorce when there is a disparity of income and it’s a reality in those cases. However, there are ways to come up with an alimony amount you can live with.

Divorce alimony payments

Divorce alimony payments

If you have been married for a period of time, generally seven years or more, and you earn more than your spouse, or you are the only partner working, chances are that you will pay some amount of alimony for some period of time. Going to court to fight paying alimony may be unrealistic and it may cost you a great deal more to fight and ultimately lose. Start out by speaking with a lawyer familiar with your state’s alimony laws so you can better understand your situation and your options.

The basic alimony formula is need and ability to pay. While everyone needs money, or thinks that they do, need is about realistic need for living expenses. This does not mean that every wish or extravagance must be covered, nor does it mean that the person receiving alimony has to downsize their lifestyle while yours stays the same. Taking a middle ground approach will help you to either settle your case or position yourself for a fair ruling in court.

Unless there is a medical reason or disability, the alimony receiving spouse will be responsible for some of their living expenses. This means that your spouse will be expected to work, either part-time or full-time. In some cases, income will be imputed to the non-working spouse. Income expectations should be realistic. You should not expect your spouse to earn a high level of income with little or no work experience and you should not expect your spouse to earn the same amount as they did when they stopped working, if that was years ago. You can also agree to a decreasing alimony amount which allows your spouse time to find work starting at a lower salary and work up to a higher paying job.

Alimony awarded by a judge is almost always modifiable, which means that the amount can be decreased or increased if circumstances change. In some cases, it makes sense to agree to a non-modifiable amount of alimony for a period of time. This gives you the certainty of knowing the end date and knowing that the amount you are going to pay will not change. The drawback is that, depending on the agreement that you reach, you may end up paying alimony to your ex-spouse when they no longer need it or you would otherwise be able to stop paying, such as if he or she remarries. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of such an approach and discuss the specifics of your situation with an attorney who is knowledgeable about alimony laws.

Like a non-modifiable alimony agreement, a lump sum is a total amount that is paid at one time, or in a series of non-modifiable payments. This approach is considered in long-term marriages where the only other option is to pay alimony for a permanent or indefinite term. Once again, this gives you the certainty of knowing how much you have to pay and that you would not have to pay any more. But there’s a downside. The “buy out” amount of a long-term alimony award may be very high and you may end up paying more under this approach than you would have paid by agreeing to modifiable monthly alimony.

Divorce is emotional, costly and draining. In some instances, a person may agree to pay a certain amount of alimony just to get the process over with or perhaps to appease the soon to be ex-spouse. There are benefits to settlement and finality, but not if you agree to something you cannot afford. A settlement agreement is like any other contract in that it is enforceable. But an agreement to pay support (alimony) has additional methods of enforcement and you could face severe penalties if you do not pay something you agreed to pay. It is also important to note that, although most alimony amounts are modifiable - unless you agreed to something non-modifiable - you will have to prove your case for modification. This process involves going back to court, which can be very expensive and it also involves having to prove a change in circumstances, which may or may not exist. It is very important that you carefully consider whether you can agree to pay a certain amount before you actually agree to it.

You may find yourself in a situation where you no longer can afford to pay the alimony you are required to. There may be job a loss or health issues. You cannot just stop paying, even if you talk to your ex-spouse about it and you believe he/she understands. You have a court-ordered obligation that can be enforced against you unless you take the right legal steps to modify the court order or suspend payments.

When you put aside the emotions (which is almost impossible to do on your own), a divorce settlement is a business negotiation. There are assets and liabilities to be divided and there may be a support obligation. Courts in most states treat these two aspects separately - the assets and debts are divided equally and support is decided separately. In certain cases, there may be a creative solution that works better. For example, your spouse may want to keep certain assets, the house, bank accounts, etc. These assets may be important enough to him/her to “trade” for alimony, or part of an alimony obligation. Seek the help of a lawyer who is a skilled negotiator to explore these options with you to see if there is an alternative that works better for your situation.

Most states are no fault states. This means that either party may ask for a divorce and the court will not look to blame either one for breaking up the marriage. It could be that your spouse was unfaithful or he/she simply decided to end the marriage even though you don’t want to. And that spouse is not asking you for alimony. This feels tremendously unfair. But the reality is that a judge will still award alimony if the circumstances call for it. This is not easy to accept, and you should seek assistance from a therapist, spiritual counsellor or trusted family and friends to help process your emotions through this time. But fighting this emotional battle in court is not a good idea. You will only end up paying more money to lawyers, and even possibly pay attorneys fees for both sides for taking a legally unreasonable position. And, in the end still have to pay alimony.

Many courts take the view that alimony should cover basic needs and necessities rather than extravagances. This is especially true when awarding long-term or permanent alimony. One of the reasons people agree to a shorter alimony term is because it is generally for a higher amount. There is no reason to agree to the highest possible amount of alimony for the longest period of time. In a negotiation, there is give and take and it would be one or the other of these two options.

Divorce alimony payments

Alimony is not something people like to think about or deal with, but it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to alimony and divorce. Anyone going through a divorce should seek the advice of a family law attorney who has knowledge of alimony laws and experience in handling such matters.

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