Alimony is one of the big topics that clients want to know about. The answers to the question, “Am I going to get alimony?” are wildly divergent. As I was writing the first article about the issue, I realized I needed to give more information. To that end, I am going to write a continuing series of blogs around the topic. I’m going to use my experience to give you some examples of when clients did get alimony. The caveat I have is that the award of alimony also is affected by the Jurisdiction, the Judge, and the lawyer you choose. The examples are merely to give you an idea of what to expect and why. You can learn more about this topic by reading our series on alimony.
Adultery and Alimony
I had a sweet client who had been married for more than twenty years. She wasn’t sure her husband was having an affair, but she was sure he was acting very inappropriately with co-workers. She began to suspect he was at least emotionally attached to another woman. She began to come in to see me worrying about proving adultery. We weren’t going to be able to prove adultery. She sent email after email, “Does this prove adultery?”. No, it didn’t. Not if he bought them a gift. Not if he went to lunch with them. Not if he sent Facebook messages.
But she didn’t have to prove adultery. She really needed to be awarded alimony because her health was failing. She had a job but couldn’t work fulltime due to health issues. She wasn’t sure if she could continue to work as much as she did. She was afraid of getting divorced and not being able to support herself. I tried to tell her that the factors that would be important in her case were the length of the marriage, her health challenges, and the earning disparity.
It didn’t help that the husband with the wandering eye, kept telling her she wouldn’t get alimony. I’m not sure where he obtained his law degree! He chided her and said she would have to fend for herself because he wouldn’t give her a dime. I tried to tell her, that he wasn’t the one that would get to decide. If he didn’t want to resolve it, we would go to trial. Finally, she had the courage to go forward with her case.
In the meantime, her health became worse and he moved on to new co-workers to ogle. By the time we arrived in mediation, she had numerous surgeries scheduled and extended time off work. He had lost a job and the rumor was that it was due to his inappropriate actions at work. Still no proof of adultery, but we did have pretty clear fault. We scheduled mediation. Her homework was to have a clear idea of what her budget would be after the divorce.
Important Factors to Prove an Alimony Case
One of the important aspects of proving an alimony case is to have a realistic budget to present to the Court to demonstrate that there is going to be a deficit between what you make and what you need. The next step is to show that your spouse has enough income after his basic budget to assist you. You can image this another topic that’s not clear cut but for the purpose of this blog, just remember, the alimony must be to bridge the gap between earnings and needs for the spouse that makes less income. The limitation, of course, is the payor’s ability to meet those needs with their income.
During mediation, she was well prepared. She had her budget and estimates for all the unknown factors. For instance, what would her car insurance cost after she had to get it on her own. Or how much would her cell phone cost? Many times we don’t know these things because the expenses are mingled, but it’s absolutely necessary to have an estimate. She and I had gone over each and every expense she may have after the divorce. We sent this over to the opposing side and within a short period of time he agreed to pay alimony of $1,500 until she can draw social security. This was the amount we needed to make her necessary expenses and it was also up the amount he could reasonably pay while still paying his expenses. I’m not sure what changed for him, but he readily paid what we requested. It was a fair result.
As you can see, the factors that affect alimony aren’t always the same. The best advice I can give you is to hire a qualified attorney and to be as well prepared as my client was to fight the alimony fight.