You didn’t want the divorce. You sure didn’t want it to end up this way. But if you have to go through this process you at least want to protect your wallet. You want to protect your future.
Your goal might be to pay no alimony in Florida. Or, perhaps your goal is to pay something reasonable and fair. Or maybe you are in a “woman-friendly” divorce jurisdiction and don’t want to get raked over the coals.
Regardless of your goal, the 13 tactics below will help you fight back against any unreasonable alimony request.
1. Work Out An Agreement With Your Spouse
While obvious, consider trying to work out an divorce agreement with your spouse before beginning a divorce process.
Ideally, you have a prenuptial agreement that protects you in place. If not you may be eligible to work out a postnuptial agreement with your spouse.
A postnuptial agreement is a contract signed after marriage that spells out issues like alimony that would be triggered by a future divorce.
Florida Judges love contracts. If you and your spouse sign a prenuptial agreement that passes legal muster then your alimony issue can be decided in advance. In a way that fits your alimony goals.
Even if your divorce is already filed you still can work out an agreement with your spouse. Usually, a simple kitchen table discussion at the beginning of the case will let you know if you can work out a beneficial alimony agreement.
2. Help Your Spouse Succeed In The Workforce
So at its heart alimony is about answering these questions:
- How much does the needy spouse need in Alimony?
- How much can the needy spouse contribute to her own need?
- What is the difference between the needy spouses need and her ability to contribute to her need?
You can use our Florida alimony calculator to help you with your alimony calculation. The difference between needy spouses needs and the amount she can contribute to her need is the amount of alimony that will be paid by the breadwinner spouse. Provided he makes enough money to pay that amount.
Therefore, helping your spouse succeed in the workforce is the best way to reduce or eliminate your need to pay alimony.
If you’re still married then actively encourage your spouse to get working and devote herself to her career. Does she want to go to school or learn job skills? Then make it happen.
Note that this is especially true for the classic American arrangement where the Husband goes off to work and the Wife stays home and raised the children. But even in the modern age of dual income earners, the more money she makes the less likely you will have to pay spousal support upon a divorce.
3. Live Frugally
If you spend money now like crazy you can expect a Judge to order you to pay more alimony to your spouse later.
That’s because an important component of alimony is the standard of living of your spouse during the end of the marriage.
Standard of living is a legal term that discusses the average monthly expenses that your spouse incurred at the end of the marriage.
When possible, the Courts will want to keep everybody in a similar standing of living after the divorce.
Of course, if you and your spouse make a combined 100K a year it will be very tough to keep the standard of living the same. There is just not enough money to go around when going from one household to two households in that case.
But the more money that you and your spouse bring into the home the more likely it is that there is enough money to go around and keep standards of living the same.
If your spouse is accustomed to driving a Porsche then her standard auto expense will be significantly higher than if she was used to driving a Hyundai. If you have a yearly budget of $20K for vacations then her standard expenses for vacations will be much higher than if you were homebodies.
So be more prudent with your money. Your spouse’s standard expenses will be lower. All things being equal, so will your alimony obligation. Plus, the more you save:
4. Impute A Reasonable Rate Of Return On Your Investments
Hopefully, you and your spouse have done a good job-saving money through the years. Of course, if the savings are marital money then your spouse will stand to receive half of the savings. And while you may wince at first, hear me out: Your savings can reduce the alimony you pay on a monthly basis.
Now, your spouse won’t be required to live off savings when you divorce. But, if your savings are earning money (which they should be) then you can ask the court to consider the average returns as income to the Wife.
And remember, the more your spouse contributes to her own need the less you’ll need to contribute.
Here’s how this works: Assume you and your Wife have 500K in stocks and investments to distribute after the divorce. Simple math says your Wife will receive 250K.
This money isn’t tied up in a 401K. It’s readily available to invest in right now.
So for purposes of alimony payments, your Wife should be earning income on that 250K that is above and beyond her current nest egg. Let’s assume a (very) reasonable rate of return of 5%.
.05(250,000) = $12,500 a year. That’s more than $1000.00 a month that your Wife has to support her need. And that’s $1000.00 less a month that you’ll need to pay in alimony all things being equal.
5. End Your Failing Marriage ASAP
End your marriage asap. That’s off even for a divorce attorney to write.
But your goal is to fight alimony and not have support. Realize the basic rule of alimony in Florida divorce: The longer you have been married the longer you’ll have to pay alimony when you divorce.
That’s because Florida law determines alimony types based on how long the parties have been married.
If you’ve been married for just a couple of years you have a short-term marriage. Alimony may not even be appropriate at all.
If you’ve been married for 7-17 years you are in a medium-term marriage. Alimony for a term of years might absolutely be appropriate and probably is if you have big income differences.
Married for 18 years or more? You’re looking down the barrel at permanent alimony. Meaning paying alimony for every (or until you move to modify it).
And on the scale of things, every year additional your married increases the length of time you’ll pay alimony. Not to mention, every year your spouse is financially dependent on you will make it that much harder for her to find her footing in the workforce later after divorce. And Judges know it.
If you know divorce is inevitable, get divorced.
6. Show Your Spouse’s’ Earning Potential for an Alimony Case
We’ve discussed that the more your Spouse makes the less you’ll have to contribute to her need.
But what if she is not working at all. What is she is just hanging out playing on facebook. What if she hasn’t worked in years.
You can still argue to the Judge that your Wife should be working and that the Judge should impute a certain income number to your wife.
Even though she is not working she could and should be. The Judge can account for this in his ruling.
To do this in Florida you’ll want to hire a vocational evaluator expert.
A vocational evaluator is an expert witness.
The vocational evaluator will interview your spouse. Review your spouse’s medical records. And make a determination as to whether you spouse is able to work.
Then, the evaluator will do market research on the labor market nearby. The evaluator will act almost as a job-finder for your spouse.
All of this information can be then presented to the Judge to empower the Judge to impute a reasonable wage.
Of course, you can move forward and present this to the Judge without an expert. But with so much on the line it is almost always advisable to lean on an expert to aid your case.
7. Prove Your Spouses Real Need for Alimony
Why would you take the effort to prove up your spouses need when she would otherwise need to do so in court?
Because Judges mean well. But they can only do as good as the information that is provided to them.
If you’re in the middle of a divorce case already you know that spouses almost always over inflate their budgetary needs on financial affidavits. Sometimes this is intentionally done to try to inflate an alimony award. Often it’s simply because the other spouse does not know their true needs and is erroring on the side of caution.
Regardless, over-inflated financial affidavits can lead to a Judge ordering more alimony than what is truly needed.
If you and your spouse have traditionally lived a modest lifestyle and instead chosen to save money then consider proving your spouse actually need.
This is usually done via an accountant or divorce financial analyst. You could also do the homework yourself. The problem with that is in contested divorce cases your spouse will probably not trust your work. At least that is our experience.
The beauty of proving a real need is that the numbers are the numbers. They provide an objective way to discuss alimony.
If your spouse is able to adequately contribute to their own needs then proving the actual need could result in your spouse dropping her alimony claim. In other cases, it can protect you from a runaway alimony award by the Judge.
8. Maximize Your Custody With The Kids
Look, we are not big fans of seeking additional custody just to save money.
But if you really want lots of time with your children after the divorce recognize lots of custody can decrease alimony payments.
Courts in Florida need to look at what parent will pick up the lion share of kid responsibilities after the divorce is final.
This makes sense. If Mom is going to do all of the work then mom will need to sacrifice work to an extent. Mom’s ability to contribute to her needs will be lessened.
But if both parents are sharing in the kid responsibilities equally then mom’s alimony need will likely be something much less.
9. Trade Assets For Florida Alimony
In Florida, people thought Hulk Hogan got hosed in his divorce. His Wife ended up with 40% his companies and 70% of his liquid assets.
But Hogan agreed to this deal. He did so for one big reason: He did not have to pay his Wife any alimony.
Buying your spouse out of alimony has its perks.
You will have the peace of mind knowing every dollar you earn in the future will stay with you.
And your spouse may pay a premium for the guaranteed money. After all, what if you get hit by a truck tomorrow and can’t work? You would not be able to pay alimony.
Cash now, however, is a guarantee. That’s why you can buy out the future value of your alimony at a heavy discount.
If you have the assets and believe that your future ability to earn looks good consider trading assets for alimony.
10. Pick Apart Your Wife’s Spending “Needs”
This is the ‘death by 1000 cuts” approach to fighting alimony.
And it works.
You simply go through all of your Wife’s expenditures and fight the “little things”. Lots of little expenses equal a big alimony payment.
For example, your Wife may estimate $100 a month for hair. But you go back and review expenses for the last two years and determine that the monthly expense is only $80.
Now, it seems crazy to fight over $20. But $20 a month is $240 a year. If you’re looking at permanent alimony and you have an average life expectancy of 40 years remaining then that $240 has a an estimate future value of $9,600.
You then see that your Wife is claiming she needs $800 a month for eating out. But you know that your Wife is “double dipping” because she eats out more than half the time with the children. Your Wife’s expense, then, is sizably less.
You can attack off of these expenses individually. It takes effort and time but the pay off makes it worthwhile.
11. Don’t Agree To Subsidize Your Wife’s Future Savings Or Gifting
In the same vein, alimony recipients like to add in inappropriate expenses that Florida law does not support.
Remember, alimony is for your spouse. Not for the children, friends, or the church.
What’s more, alimony is supposed to cover the needs as they are. Alimony does not cover “something extra” so that your spouse can put money in retirement or in a 401K.
Thoroughly look for expenses that have a kid component to them. Travel expenses, eating expenses, and household goods are major places to look.
Look for expenses related to gifts. Think birthday parties, Christmas gifts, and church donations.
Finally look for money that your spouse intends to put towards savings or retirement.
And dig in and fight these parts of the alimony request.
The law is on your side.
12. Build A Cohabitation Clause Into Your Settlement Agreement
We have talked extensively about fighting the initial alimony award.
But what about building a trojan horse into the agreement to increase your chances of getting out of the alimony award later?
One of the best approaches is to build in cohabitation clauses into the agreement.
Look, its very likely that your spouse will find another significant other later.
But she may be hesitant to pull the trigger on marriage later because she knows the alimony train will end.
Build a clause that specifically spells out what will happen if your spouse moves in with a boyfriend later. For example, alimony might terminate should she move in with a boyfriend.
Remember, Florida really likes contracts and will enforce them whenever possible.
Florida does have a cohabitation statute where alimony can be determined if your spouse acts married with a new partner but does not pull the trigger on marriage.
But you can do better by building in a specific clause that automatically terminates alimony when certain conditions you define are met.
13. Leverage The Home
Finally, consider leveraging the home to get out of paying alimony.
The home helps in two ways: First, if your spouse is extremely attached to the home consider trading the home for alimony. This is an extension of #9 above.
Alternatively, if your Wife is not attached to the home consider selling the home. It will be easier to argue to the court that your wife (and you) do not need the high expense of your marital home in the future but would do just fine with an apartment home, townhome, or smaller (and cheaper) home. This reduces your Wife’s expenses and, everything equal reduces your alimony payments. If you need further help or understanding the alimony law, contact Denmon Pearlman in Florida.