Is alimony (spousal support) still relevant?

In an interesting an enlightening new article on alimony, the author indicates that spousal support (alimony) should be based more on a case-by-case basis rather than an automatic award as it is in California.  She states that if both parties can support themselves, then there should be no spousal support. In the case of one spouse needing time to get into or back into a career (such as when one has been raising children), then spousal support is appropriate to help the supported spouse get into a career.

This sounds very fair, but I have two problems with it: First, it is hard to create a law around this proposal.  In California, spousal support generally lasts for half the length of the marriage and is intended to even out, as much as possible, the finances of the two parties. Second, in our economic environment, it is hard to make ends meet.  In a divorce, when the couple splits, generally one spouse moves out and in an instant the same amount of money – whether it’s one or two incomes – is supporting two households.  Two rents/mortgages, two sets of utilities, not to mention the initial financial requirement of getting into a home, buying furniture, dishes, etc.  When one spouse makes a great deal more than the other, or even a little bit more, it can be impossible, simply looking at the numbers, for the lower-earning spouse to make it.

I found it interesting that, in the article, the older individuals in the crowd were more in favor of spousal support than the younger.  I would agree that, in younger couples, there is less of a likelihood that one spouse is not working and stays home exclusively.  Many couples now share the parenting responsibilities as well as the financial responsibilities. It does seem unfair for one spouse to have to pay on an ongoing basis for the support of the spouse they are divorcing.  I know this because I have represented dozens and dozens of men and women who have had to pay spousal support.  There is almost always some kind of negative feeling attached to it. But until we have a way to better equalize the earning of couples, I think spousal support will remain.

Getting a divorce? Tax tips

I don’t often write about taxes, but today seems to be tax day, with my last post about the dependency exemption in child support.  It is a common question from my divorcing clients regarding the timing for divorce filing on taxes, and how to file taxes when in the process of divorce.  In addition, many of my clients are interested to know that child support is neither deductible the the payor nor included as income for the recipient.  Unlike spousal support (alimony), which is both deductible and included as income.  Here is an article I read recently that tackles these tax questions and more in a very readable format.

Gender & divorce in California: Common themes for men

Here is the second part of our series on Gender & Divorce in California.  These are common issues that come up for men in divorce.

Gender & divorce in California: Common themes for women

There are unique issues in California divorce that generally come up for women much more commonly then for men.  Here are some common themes we see in divorce for women.  Next time we’ll talk about divorce and men.

Child and spousal support (alimony) in California divorce

Nearly every divorce involves some kind of support, whether it is for the child(ren) or for one of the spouses.  In addition, finances are often one of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce in California.  Here is an overview of this potentially contentious issue:

How to get through your divorce with money, your sanity, and hope for the future: Law, strategy, and everything you need to know but no one tells you

This is the working title of the book I am putting together primarily for divorcing parties in California, but there will be general application for those outside of California.  I am targeting a release at the end of the month and want to be able to help the widest audience.

The topic will include: what to do and think about when you’re thinking of divorce, the initial process, the overall process, emotions involved, hiring a lawyer, the things they don’t tell you that you need to know, finances, child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, property division, debt, negotiation strategies, settlement conferences, trial, specific issues that come up frequently (substance abuse, moving away, for example), completing your case, post-divorce considerations, and where/how to get help.   Each topic will include the “hard” law and strategy as well as the emotional and logistical, common sense aspects and the things no one tells you but you need to know.

Sound worthwhile?

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, and this blog is one way of getting the information out there.  But now, I don’t see that there is another publication that combines everything: law, strategy, emotions and all the little things you don’t expect.  Many publications have some of these, but none have all of them together.  I think it’s time to give access to the divorce process to everyone who needs it, and not just those wealthy enough to spend tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys.

What do you think?  Is there a topic you would like me to include?

Things they don’t tell you about divorce in California (and everywhere else!)

I have talked a lot about the different aspects of  divorce in California, financial aspects, alternative options, parenting in divorce, and preparation, among other topics, but I’ve never written about all those aspects you don’t know about or hear about until you are in the thick of it.  Here’s a few of the key things they don’t tell you about divorce:

  1. It’s going to take a LOT longer and cost a LOT more than you ever imagined.  No, longer than that….and even longer than that.  Whatever you’ve imagined, add at least 50% more time and money.  And this isn’t just attorney fees money, it’s lost wages money (those pesky court appearances), increased debt money, and new expenses money (new blender, new apartment).
  2. Attorneys – even your attorney – can seem like s/he isn’t on your side.  Sometimes this is good, as when you’re hearing the reality of divorce and your attorney is not just telling you what you want to hear (so you’ll be disappointed later), but sometimes it’s bad, as when your attorney is mean or nasty to you.
  3. Your attorney may not be telling you ways to save money on your divorce.  This can vary from attorney to attorney, and it can range from benign oversight to outright malpractice.  You have to decide what’s going to work for you, but don’t fail to either get a second opinion or learn at least some law and procedure so you know what questions to ask.  The more you fight, the more the lawyers get.
  4. The system is not fair.  It’s not designed to make you feel better or vindicated or right.  It’s flawed, and the people involved are flawed, as people are.  “Making the judge see your side” is not going to get you your way.  What will get you your way is having the facts on your side.
  5. Your children will act out, misbehave, develop illnesses they never had, and otherwise have a really hard time with the divorce.  Instead of blaming your ex-spouse, work with him/her to help your children.  You will save them in the short AND long run.
  6. Your lawyer is not going to be offended if you fire him/her and get another lawyer.  Most lawyers welcome the reduction in caseload and “starting over” with a new lawyer is not hard at all.
  7. Much like #4 above, the legal system is not going to help you at all with the emotional aspects of the divorce.  Get a therapist, as soon as you can.  Get over it, in your own way and your own time, and not with lawyers, courts and hearings.
  8. The more you learn/know, the better off you’ll be, regardless of how complicated or contentious your case is, the amount of lawyers’ fees (if any), and how long the process takes.