The importance of keeping an open mind about alimony

When a person makes the difficult decision to pursue a divorce, it’s likely that they will experience everything from sadness, guilt and anger to anxiety, relief and, finally, acceptance.

While this is to be expected given the years invested and the many changes that a divorce will bring — particularly if children are involved — experts indicate that it’s important for people in these situations to not let these emotions cloud their judgment when it comes to money matters.

To illustrate, many claim that both men and women may become fixated on the idea of securing alimony from their former spouse during negotiations. While this certainly understandable if a spouse has been out of the workforce for many years, sacrificing their career to raise children or advance the career of their soon-to-be ex, experts urge people in this position not to focus on alimony to the exclusion of self-reliance.

That’s because they point out that alimony isn’t necessarily the reliable source of income people think it to be.

For instance, a former spouse could elect to stop making payments despite their outstanding legal obligation, creating something of a legal and financial nightmare for the spouse relying on these payments. Similarly, a former spouse could lose their job, become disabled or even die (leaving behind inadequate life insurance).

Finally, experts argue that alimony rewards can be subject to a set amount or duration, meaning this source of income won’t last forever.

What then can a spouse do to protect themselves during negotiations?

Experts indicate that spouses should, of course, pursue any alimony to which they are otherwise entitled under state law, but also consider seeking a provision calling for a set sum to cover education and/or skills training that will enable them to increase their value on the job market (a sort of rehabilitative alimony).

This, in turn, could serve to grant them both financial autonomy and, more importantly, much-needed peace of mind about their financial future.

If you would like to learn more about divorce or divorce-related issues — child custody, child support, alimony, property division — consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can answer your questions, explain the law and outline your options.

Source: ABC News, “How women can keep from making themselves victims in divorce,” Laura Mattia, Sept. 4, 2014