How Can Men Pay Less Alimony?
Please note: this information will still apply to same-sex relationships and to women that may have alimony claims. In my experience, given the nature of my practice, we deal with more traditional situations and I see more commonly that men are paying alimony than women are. This information will still apply to all types of relationships.
1. Read Alimony Statute
The first thing that you should do in order to pay less alimony is to read the alimony statute. This is about 14 different criteria that the court is supposed to look at when determining alimony. If you don’t know what they are, you don’t know how to prepare for them. You should also make sure that your attorney has read them because many of them aren’t familiar with it. It had been reformed about four or five years ago, but the reform statute didn’t really change the majority of their criteria, at least the basic premises under the alimony statute.
You need to then take those criteria and actually start preparing information. You want to get explanations that support or reject the provisions. You want to get documents that evidence why those do or not apply. You cannot walk in and assume that you’re going to have the information necessary to establish the different criteria in your favor
2. Calculate Alimony
Second, assume that everybody is going to calculate alimony as one-third the difference of your income, even though people will tell you they don’t do that. A judge will tell you that it’s not permitted, and they’re supposed to use the statute in criteria. In every single case I have had, whenever it’s discussed, whether they say it or not, the numbers come out that way. It’s one-third of the difference. Whether the law says you’re not supposed to do it, assume that they’re going to.
But that’s the starting point. If you want to argue that it should be less than one-third of the difference, you need to find reasons to support why. That goes back to understanding the statute because the different criteria will help you eliminate the difference, or bridge that gap, and make it smaller.
Additionally, you want to contemplate changes in your future circumstances, including changes for the person who’s support you’re paying. You want to look at cost-of-living adjustments. You want to look at the occupation that they either are in or will be going into, and determine if they are likely to get bonuses. Are they likely to get cost-of-living raises? Are they going to get other raises, performance bonus, stock options, or other things like that? You really want to contemplate how their circumstances are going to change for their betterment in the future. You also want to consider how your circumstances may change for the worse.
Always contemplate if you lose your job. The law is very, very rigid about what it takes to modify support, so you need to contemplate what problems may occur. You also want to contemplate how your income will change, whether you’re gonna get the same kind of cost of living adjustments, or bonuses, or options. That may facilitate your ability to pay more support in the future, for instance, but now, you may need to start out paying less to begin with, or even vice versa. You want to understand where your circumstances are going to go so you know exactly how much money you’re going to have.
In 2019, alimony, on the federal level, will no longer be deductible. It is on the state-level, and it’s gonna create some confusion in how we prepare alimony numbers. We’re all accustomed to using the net-figure, the after tax income, which usually leaves more money on the table because there’s often different tax brackets between two parties (the paying spouse and the supported spouse). You can still get a deduction on a state-level, so you will have to figure out how the money will be effected.
3. Pay Attention to the Case Information Statements
I would also recommend that you pay very close attention to the Case Information Statement, both in your preparation of yours and in your review of your spouses. The Case Information Statement is probably the most important document you’re ever going to complete in your divorce case. It’s a very long, very tedious document that asks you everything from how much you made and paid in taxes, to what do you spend a month on hair care. That is generally what judges and lawyers will look to when determining the needs of the supported spouse, as well as the ability to pay of the other spouse.
Now, part of the new changes indicate that the court is supposed to look at both spouses’ past lifestyle. You’ll hear terms about comparable lifestyle. However, there’s no such thing as a comparable lifestyle when you get divorced. So, in my practice, I don’t believe that judges will really change that focus, to really start acknowledging that both sides need to have a comparable lifestyle. I think it’s going to be some time before the new law catches up to the old judges.
The Case Information Statement is still going to be the most important thing that you’re using. You have to make sure it’s accurate. You need to make sure that your spouse’s is accurate as well.
You want to build in what may be changing in your expenses in the future. The Case Information Statement is not a static document, although most people complete it like it is. For instance, you will be asked what your car payment is right now. Let’s say it’s $300, but you think you’re going to be getting a more expensive car. You can put a footnote and indicate that the expense you have is either going to increase, or, even better, put in a higher number but put in a footnote that it’s an adjusted number for either cost of living, inflation, or anticipated expenses. You may even have new expenses that come up like child care, after school care, daycare, college expenses, and commuting costs. You can build these into the Case Information Statement, even though they don’t actually exist, so long as your footnote says that it’s a contemplated change or it’s an estimated number.
Your Case Information Statement needs to be accurate, but it doesn’t need to be exact. You simply need to add the footnotes and explain how you’re coming to these numbers.
4. Build in Modification
Last, you want to build in reasons for modification if you’re doing an alimony agreement. If you’re going to a judge’s decision, which is rare but it does happen, you’re not likely to get in provisions that allow for simplified modification.
I often recommend my clients consider even offering some more alimony in certain areas so that they can get a reduced or an easier modification if and when things change in the future. Although this is about how to pay less alimony, that last tip may actually cause you to pay more in the short-term, but long-term, it’s gonna save you a ton of legal fees and alimony. Modifying an alimony payment is very difficult, almost next to impossible from a legal and a financial standpoint. While you may pay a little bit more alimony to get that provision, in the long-term you’ll be saving yourself a great deal.