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How does a court determine appropriate alimony?

Divorce is rarely the same for any two couples, so it is not always easy to anticipate how the various portions of the divorce negotiation will play out. For many years, alimony, or spousal support, was a regular component of divorce, but has grown less prevalent in recent years.

If you face divorce and have concerns about the role alimony may plat in the process, it is wise to understand the broad strokes of the factors that may determine how a court chooses to include alimony or pass over it when the divorce finalizes.

Family law is, in many cases, more about ranges than absolutes. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand the various factors that play into divorce negotiations and help you identify and protect your divorce priorities.

Factors that determine alimony

Alimony may vary depending on the type of support it is, the assets of the paying spouse, and the needs of the receiving spouse.

If one spouse has significant assets or income, while the other has very little, or faces additional setbacks like a child to care for, an ongoing illness or very little ability to earn, then a court may choose to award some form of alimony.

Similarly, if the couple enjoyed a certain standard of living during the marriage, a court may award some alimony to a spouse who would otherwise leave that standard for one far less preferable.

In some instances, a court may consider the conduct of either spouse when determining alimony, although this is not wise to count on. If a paying spouse acts maliciously or abusively toward the receiving spouse, a court may take this into consideration. Similarly, if a spouse who receives alimony behaves maliciously, this may impact the calculations, or may possibly eliminate alimony as a consideration.

In some cases, a paying spouse may suggest lump-sum alimony. Be sure that you understand the implications for your taxable income before you accept such an offer. In some cases, accepting lump sum alimony may negatively impact your finances in the long run.

Defending your rights

If you believe that your spouse intends to treat you unfairly in your divorce negotiation, it is wise to consult with an experienced attorney to assess your rights and how to protect them. The sooner you identify your divorce priorities, the sooner you can build a strategy to protect them as you move into a new season of life.

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