Alimony, or as it is called in some states, spousal maintenance, is a payment of money from one spouse to the other spouse either during the divorce process or ordered to begin after the divorce is finalized. During a divorce, spouses look for any way they can to avoid spending or losing their money, including trying to avoid having to pay alimony to their ex. Many of the strategies that individuals can use to avoid alimony directly relate to how the courts in their state award alimony. Individuals should study up on the alimony guidelines for their particular state and use the help of a local divorce attorney to help find any loopholes that may allow them to get out of having to make alimony payments.
Best Tips to Avoiding Alimony
There are a number of ways that an individual can avoid having to pay alimony, either by pre-planning, doing so during the divorce, or even after the divorce. Here are some of those tactics
- Prenuptial Agreement: This is something that couples do before they are married to help eliminate the possibility of alimony payments if they divorce. A prenuptial agreement is a legal agreement between the couple outlining what will take place as far as the division of property is concerned should they divorce. Individuals will usually seek a prenuptial agreement when one spouse makes or has significantly more money than the other as a means to protect their assets during divorce. Other reasons for having a prenuptial agreement entered is to avoid having to pay alimony to the other spouse.
- Proof of Infidelity: Depending on which state you reside in, infidelity may be a reason for the denial of alimony. In these states, if infidelity on the behalf of one of the partners is proven, it can help to take alimony for that spouse off the table. Keep in mind, however, you will need to prove the infidelity happened to the court’s satisfaction through different types of evidence. Proving infidelity is no easy task, as you will need actual proof, such as multiple witnesses, photographs, video, or other incriminating evidence.
- Get Out Early: The amount of alimony one will have to pay is often determined in part by how long the couple has been together. Should the marriage seem unhappy early on, you may want to consider ending it sooner rather than later – the longer you are married, the more in alimony you will have to pay should the relationship end in a divorce. States, such as Illinois, even have a set formula to determine the length of alimony payments based off a percentage of the length of the marriage.
- Downsize Your Lifestyle: The court will also take each spouse’s financial situation, lifestyle, and income into consideration when making a decision about alimony. Because of this, it is obvious that the spouse who is making less income and living on a smaller scale will generally not have to pay alimony. Another way to avoid paying alimony is to work to downsize your lifestyle – some spouses have even quit their jobs and claimed bankruptcy to avoid paying alimony. Keep in mind though, that intentionally becoming unemployed will get you in serious trouble with the court as the judge will consider this the hiding of assets. Also, bankruptcy does not eliminate alimony or other family court obligations such as child support, but if you have a lot of debt, it can help to show the judge that you cannot afford to pay alimony.
Unfortunately, even though you may do all you can to avoid paying alimony, a divorce judge may still order one spouse to make alimony payments to the other. When this happens, the question always becomes, how exactly will the court determine the awarding of alimony to the other spouse?
How Will the Court Determine Alimony?
Whereas child support is more of a formula in terms of how much money will be awarded, alimony is normally at the discretion of the court (there are some states, however, that do offer general guidelines to determine this amount). That being the case, working out the details of the payments prior to going to court would benefit both parties. The person receiving the support is supposed to be assured of an amount that is acceptable to meet his or her needs. The court also strives to find an amount that the payor can actually afford to pay to his ex-spouse.
In states where spousal support or alimony is awarded, the courts must determine which party is entitled to the spousal support as well as the other party’s ability to actually pay. While there are certainly cases where one spouse receives support for an indefinite period, this support is meant only as a temporary source of income to help one spouse maintain his or her quality of life immediately after the divorce.
Something else to consider that is separate from “standard” determining factors is the actual earning capacity of both parties. If you are not earning what you could be, the judge may consider this when making the award. This is something that is taken into account for both parties. If one party has a degree and simply chooses not to work, alimony may not be quite as high as expected. On the flip side, if a doctor suddenly decides to work at McDonald’s, he or she is hardly earning what he or she is capable of and the alimony award will be based on the potential, not the actual current earnings.
Other factors that will determine alimony awards:
- Age and health of each spouse
- Quality of living during the marriage
- Current income of each spouse
- Length of the marriage
- If one spouse is not working, can he or she enter the workforce now or will he or she need education or training
- Future asset potential (for instance, if one spouse has a guaranteed stock option bonus in place at his or her existing job)
- Did one spouse financially support the other spouse’s education or training for his or her current employment (an example would be if husband went to school while the wife worked to support him – once his education has been completed, the wife then stays home to take care of the kids and he starts his career)
- Property division of marital assets
What’s The Next Step to Understanding Alimony?
Fighting an award of alimony is nothing short of a knock down drag out battle, but when approached the proper way, can be possible. Understanding how alimony works in each particular state is the first step to deciding how the facts of your case will shake out. The next step is figuring out how much legal advice you actually need. We can help by connecting you at no cost to a local divorce attorney that can provide you with a consultation!