Spousal support, or alimony, is an important tool that allows a dependent spouse to maintain financial independence after divorce. Spousal support reform is a constant work in progress, making the rules and processes difficult for many divorcees to follow. The good news is that you can gain an advantage through careful research and realistic expectations. This quick pre-divorce checklist will help you get started.
1. Most Jurisdictions Only Allow Spousal Support Requests While Your Case Is Open, Not After.
You may not be able to request spousal support once your divorce case is closed. Know the limitations in your jurisdiction and act fast if you are running out of time. You can always ask to revise or challenge any unfavorable terms of the agreement many months and sometimes years after the divorce, though the process is not always easy. Contact your attorney local court for information specific to your area.
2. Every Jurisdiction Treats Spousal Support Requests Differently. Know Your Courts.
Spousal support laws differ greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction – those variables are difficult to work with, but it gets even tougher when you consider that each judge within a particular jurisdiction will have his or her own approach to alimony cases. Every jurisdiction will likely have different restrictions on who can receive spousal support (generally depending on the length of marriage), how much spousal support a spouse can receive (some states cap it, others are virtually limitless), and so on.
3. An Experienced Attorney With Extensive Local Experience Is A Must-Have.
It is incredibly important to hire a divorce attorney with alimony experience in the jurisdiction of your hearing. A local attorney will already know the preferences of the local judges and will already have access to the information and forms that will make your legal consultations run faster. A local attorney will also have access to counselors, psychologists, doctors, and other professionals that may be able to help with your case in some way.
4. Extensive Research And Realistic Expectations Will Better The Odds In Your Favor.
Spousal support laws are changing all the time, and some of the advice you receive from friends and family members may be outdated by now. Restrictions are growing tighter. Spousal support used to be a way for a spouse to maintain his or her marital standard of living, but more and more jurisdictions are taking the more modern approach of treating spousal support as a last resort way to help an underemployed spouse pay off community debts or gain skills for future employment.
5. Expect And Prepare For Possible Surprises During The Spousal Support Hearing.
The process is relatively unpredictable – show up to your court date expecting the unexpected. You might find out that your spouse has been hiding assets, or the opposing attorney may resort to defamation of character. Your spouse may claim that you have the potential to earn more than you have stated, or may claim that you are receiving support from a new boyfriend/girlfriend. Be prepared with ample proof and plenty of character witnesses.
Many soon-to-be divorcees want nothing more than to reach the end of their stressful and intimidating journey. Couples going through divorce are often more worried about finding a roof to put over their heads than battling in court for pennies, but it’s still important to consider the spousal support process as a solution to your long-term financial reintegration into the single life. Contact an experienced family law attorney today for information that could help you find your way back to financial independence.