One common misconception that I hear a lot is about how alimony is awarded in divorce. Many people have heard the rule that you get alimony for half the length of the marriage. In some situations this might be the case, but it is far from the rule when it comes to divorce. People’s need for alimony is not just tied to half the length of their marriage. In some situations, you may not need alimony at all. Or, you may not need alimony for half the length of the marriage. Let’s take a closer look at this subject.
Length of the Marriage
I think that the courts have gotten cheaper when it comes to alimony. They generally do not award as much money as they have in the past. But judges do look at the length of a marriage as a factor in alimony. They oftentimes do consider length of marriage, and I think the longer the marriage, the more likely it is that they will award longer alimony. But, it’s not set in stone that it has to be for half the length of the marriage. There are other factors to consider.
There are also alternatives to traditional alimony. For example, a court could give you more of the assets of the marriage in lieu of alimony. They might do this to preserve cash flow for the other party because the other party has more carrying costs or operating costs to live their life.
So, that’s why it’s ultimately better in these cases to have experienced counsel to settle your case. Because when you go to trial on these things, what you think you know and what you can prove are two different things. A court can get it wrong and leave you in a really bad place.
Nobody will know your case better than you and your lawyer. Certainly, the judge isn’t going to know it as well as you and your attorney do. So, if you can work the case, develop the case, understand the case, and get the other side to do the same, there’s no reason why two competent lawyers can’t come together and get a resolution or you.
Lawyers can use a scalpel instead of a meat cleaver. Frankly, courts hack away at assets and the result is not always fair. On the other hand, lawyers can take a scalpel and carve things out in a way that works for both parties.
For example, you might say, “I’d rather have less alimony but I need some money up front so I can buy a house and keep the kids in the school district.”
So we propose to the other party, “What if you give a little bit more out of the 401(k)? Then they can take the money out and buy a house in the same school district, but get less alimony?” And the payor may agree that that is the best way to proceed for the whole family.
A lot of this is art, not science. You have to understand personal finances and how these things work. If you were stuck with a rule of thumb such as alimony for half the length of the marriage, it wouldn’t be a workable result. There are just too many other factors to consider.
If you need help finding an alimony agreement that will work for you, contact our office. We can come up with a creative solution to your problem.