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Jun 24, 2013

The Alimony Tango

Blog, Divorce and Finances, Divorce Mediation, Mediation Services

When I am helping divorcing couples through the arduous task of deciding on an appropriate alimony amount, it often feels very much like watching highly charged tango dancers. One will charge forward and back the other down only to find themselves on the receiving end later in the discussion.

It begins with a review of their separate individual budgets reflecting their earnings and expenses for the foreseeable future. Sometimes the budgets come out looking like a fantasy life that they never lead before divorce and have no hope of leading after divorce. Other times, they resemble someone living a monastic life without even the most basic amenities.

I work them through, item by item to ensure that their budgets are both adjusted to reflect realistic living expenses and accurate incomes. Then I show them the “surplus” and/or “deficit” situation that must be adjusted to give them both an acceptable standard of living. This portion of the alimony tango can get quite emotional for both parties but we ultimately find the right alimony amount for their particular situation.

Then the next dance begins when we go to work on deciding how long the alimony will be payable. As you may guess, the recipient is looking for a lot longer timeline than the payor. We must work together to find the best timeline for both to be able to move beyond this final financial connection. Alimony generally terminates upon remarriage or cohabitation so the final term is never known for sure.

The last dance involves whether the alimony amount will adjust with increases or decreases in earnings. Whenever possible, it is best to limit the events that will trigger another budget analysis. However, in these times of job insecurity, it can be a necessary evil.

Eventually, the alimony tango comes to an end at the appropriate time and each party moves into their totally separate financial life. Hopefully, they have both grown stronger and wiser from this experience.