I used to practice with an attorney who has since retired, and he called it the “Alimony Trifecta”. A high- income producer, a long-term marriage, and a fault. If you have been reading along with me and my series of articles on alimony, you will be picking up on some key concepts. If you are the party who wants to know if you are going to have to pay, the answer is yes, if you fall into the “Alimony Trifecta”. The amount and duration may vary but those conditions set up the perfect conditions for alimony payment.
Alimony to Ruin a Spouse’s Life
I represented a fellow a few years ago who was hell-bent on “making her pay”. They had been married a long time and she was having an affair with her, “soul mate”. My client didn’t appreciate that he was no longer the soul mate. Instead, he was the mate she wanted to get rid of fast. It was ugly. My client made allegations and proclamations. Not only did he want money, he wanted to ruin her. I tried to persuade him that if he did that where would the money come from? He didn’t listen to me and after he was censured by the Court for his threats, I told him I could not represent him regardless of his Trifecta case. I referred him to another qualified attorney and I know he went on to a large alimony award via settlement.
Let’s Break Down the Alimony Trifecta
- A long-term marriage. People seem to think that you must be married ten years to get alimony. That’s incorrect. When I say long-term, I am thinking of twenty years or more. However, the Court may award alimony whenever they want to do it within the restrictions of no longer than the parties were married and permanent alimony unless twenty years or more. Additionally, the Court should award no more than five years unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
- A high-income producer. Again, subjective. High income, in my opinion, is more than $100,000.00. If you look at the debts and the child support then it may be a higher number. You can’t be awarded to pay more than you have. Not that it doesn’t happen, but it’s an appealable error.
- This means that it’s the prospective payor’s fault that the marriage is being dissolved. To be part of the Trifecta, I am talking about the clear fault. Not just a “he said, she said”. But clearly, the person paying has misconduct that the Court is going to frown upon.
The other issue one must look at is if the lower-income spouse can provide for themselves. If they can, the alimony is more punitive than rehabilitative (again, my opinion). I have seen people hit with high alimony awards if they have been disrespectful of their spouse or disrespectful of the Court. Lying doesn’t go over well in the Courtroom. I had a case a couple of years ago and the ex-husband had claimed he needed a modification because his alimony was too high. At the break, the Judge called us in chambers and said to oppose counsel, “Settle this. Now.” I had demonstrated that the ex-husband was spending several thousand dollars a month on alcohol.
If you are looking at paying alimony, then you need to hire an attorney qualified to get you the best deal you can get. One that knows what your risk is if you go to trial. The only way you will know that is if you have experienced counsel. A prospective client came in to see me with the most offensive alimony award I had ever seen. When I heard what happened at his trial, I wasn’t surprised at all. His attorney had not presented evidence that would have been crucial to his case.
Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure you hire a qualified attorney. Especially, if you’re looking at the Trifecta!