The best way to avoid paying alimony unnecessarily requires knowledge and diligence before there is a court order. First, an experienced family law attorney is a must. They can help you negotiate and know when it is time to end spousal support.
Marital settlement (divorce) agreements that include alimony should take into consideration other terms of the agreement when fixing alimony amounts. If one spouse takes on more debt or other financial situations exist that impact the higher earning spouse’s net disposable income, those factors should be considered during spousal support negotiations. For example, if one spouse takes on 100% responsibility for community debt and alimony without taking that extra debt into consideration during negotiations, that spouse may be overburdened with debt as there is only so much disposable income to go around.
Duration of Marriage
If the marriage was of short duration, it makes sense to have an end date for alimony written into the agreement. Typically, it is half the marriage’s duration. It is best not to leave duration open ended because the paying spouse risks the time and expense it will take to end alimony. Many paying spouses have wrongfully assumed that the other spouse will agree to be reasonable in the future. While there may be room for negotiation in long-term marriages, spousal support is usually based on maintaining the financial lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage. In some circumstances, spousal support can even last for the lifetime of the paying spouse.
The self-employed spouse can avoid paying alimony in an unreasonable amount when income fluctuates. For most self-employed spouses, their income can vary from month to month, quarter to quarter, or year to year. This is particularly true for most small businesses.
Because of profit highs and lows, basing alimony on the income after payment of business expenses may cause the self-employed spouse to agree to a higher monthly base alimony. Self-employed spouses can benefit from the aid of a respected and experienced forensic accountant. A forensic accountant and family law attorney can estimate what income available for support is predictable for a self-employed spouse. This will allow the paying, self- employed spouse to figure out a base alimony number. From there a reasonable percentage of fluctuation can be added as additional alimony.
These are just a few ways to avoid overpaying alimony as part of a marital settlement agreement. An experienced spousal support lawyer will provide you with specific legal options about minimizing spousal support.