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Going through a divorce is always a trying time, even under the best of circumstances. However, once it becomes clear that a marriage cannot be salvaged, the goal for any spouse should be to achieve the best possible exit for themselves, their children and, yes, even their other spouse. Pursuing the most amicable and cooperative outcome in a divorce should always be a top priority. That’s why it’s imperative to get the best legal team possible in your corner. Especially where significant assets are at stake, there are simply too many ways for an individual without a competent legal team to make costly mistakes. Our lawyers have decades of experience and hundreds of successfully completed divorce proceedings. We can help.
Alimony negotiations are a minefield
If you are going through a divorce and your spouse has hired legal counsel, you need to drop everything and hire a lawyer as soon as possible. Decisions that come out of divorce proceedings can affect you for the rest of your life. None of these decisions is potentially more life-altering than alimony payments.
Often times, a judge will determine that the parent with residential custody receive alimony or child support payments from the non-custodial parent. This can be utterly ruinous for the parent who is saddled with the payments, especially considering that the custodial spouse has likely already been given a sizable portion of the couple’s assets, often times including their primary residence.
But even in cases where the marriage has produced no children or where the children have reached the age of majority, courts will often award alimony payments to spouses who did not contribute income to the marriage. These alimony payments are often awarded on the theory that the non-productive spouse should be able to maintain the lifestyle that they previously enjoyed, not merely their ability to meet their basic necessities. And these payments can be awarded over incredibly long periods, sometimes even permanently.
This means that the income-producing spouse can be saddled with exorbitant payments that they will legally be compelled to cough up every month, sometimes for the rest of their lives or the life of their spouse. These payments can range from a couple hundred dollars per month to millions per year. And the chances of a court ordering you to make alimony payments rises precipitously if you haven’t yet hired a solid legal team to aid in your defense.
Luckily, our lawyers have many ways to prevent our clients from being unfairly saddled with permanent alimony payments. Even if some form of alimony is inevitable or justified, we can ensure that it will never be more than a few hundred dollars per month. This doesn’t just allow our clients to avoid financial ruin. It also prevents the extremely bitter feelings that can come with unfair divorce settlements, making everyone’s lives unpleasant, no matter the money they may be receiving.
Another potential source of woe from divorce proceedings is the awarding of child support. This can be an even trickier issue, as judges will often award child support amounts not based on what the children’s basic needs are but on the perceived ability of the income-earning spouse to make payments. It is, therefore, not uncommon to see child support amounts being awarded in the multiple thousands of dollars, per month.
It is imperative that you hire a legal team who can protect you and your assets from predatory divorce settlements.
Alimony helps to ensure that a supported spouse can continue to maintain his or her married lifestyle after a divorce. In some instances, the support is considered permanent and can only be ended under certain circumstances. In New York, alimony is also referred to as “maintenance.”
What Factors Influence Alimony?
A divorcing couple can negotiate to determine how much is paid for permanent alimony. However, a judge ultimately determines if the amount is fair. In assessing the agreement between a couple and in deciding how much is owed, the judge will consider certain factors.
The length of the marriage and the present and future earning capacities of each spouse are two of the most important factors considered. The education and training of both spouses is also factored into the decision.
If the couple has children, the judge will assess whether caring for them has an impact on the custodial parent’s ability to earn a living. The distribution of marital property is also a factor.
Other factors a judge can consider include health insurance benefits lost after the divorce, taxes, expenses related to the care of the children that extend beyond child support, and the need to care for others outside of the children.
What Can End Permanent Alimony?
Even though the spousal support received might be termed “permanent alimony,” it can be ended in certain situations. For instance, if the recipient has an increase in income, the judge could decide that maintenance is no longer necessary.
The maintenance could also end or the court’s order could be modified if there is a change in circumstances for the payer. If the payer loses his or her job or has a reduction in salary, the original order could be reduced or terminated.
In addition to these instances, alimony could end if the recipient remarries. In New York, true cohabitation could also have an impact on whether maintenance continues. Cohabitation is more than the occasional overnight visit from a girlfriend or boyfriend. When a recipient spouse has a live-in partner, this could be considered cohabitation.
What If Alimony Is Not Paid?
A court order for permanent alimony does not necessarily mean it will be honored by the payer. If he or she misses payments, the recipient has legal options available to have the spousal support order enforced.
Before involving the court, the recipient’s attorney can contact the payer to determine if there is a reasonable justification for the missed payments. For instance, if the payer was sick and unable to work for a period, there might not be a need to involve the court if he or she is planning to continue the payments soon.
If there is not a justified reason for missing payments, the recipient can ask the court for help. The court will likely consider the payer spouse in contempt of court. In addition to having to pay arrears, the payer spouse could face a fine for disobeying the original court order.
The judge could also issue a withholding order. The order would be sent to the employer of the payer spouse. The employer would withhold a set amount from the payer spouse’s paycheck before he or she receives his or her pay.
A divorce attorney can help with every step of the permanent alimony process. He or she can help with the negotiations with the other spouse and provide an assessment of any offers received to determine if they are fair. The attorney can even help with taking steps to have the order enforced.