After child custody, alimony is one of the most controversial and difficult processes in a divorce. When two people break up, especially when that breakup is bitter, they both don’t want to argue about whether they want to give each other money. But the topic has to be worked on and that can only be achieved if you equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible.
“Alimony is one of the very last bits to go into effect,” says Lili Vasileff founder and president of Wealth Protection Management and Divorce and Money Matters LLC and author of Money & Divorce: The Essential Roadmap To Mastering Financial Decisions. “Everything else happens, and that’s the last piece of the puzzle to complete the big picture, and it’s usually the most complicated and complex because it depends on so many other things.”
It helps, adds Vasileff, to really approach this with realistic expectations because when you are negotiating child support you should have a very good idea of what all the other elements are when you get this deal. Vasileff, who has decades of experience in accompanying clients through maintenance payments, gave these best practice tips for negotiating maintenance payments.
Know your finances
According to Vasileff, one of the most important things to know in a maintenance negotiation is what it actually costs you to live – understanding what you can get along with, what you cannot do without, and what you would love to have. Knowing this area, she says, means you can negotiate from a better place to understand what to accept or even give up.
She also says you have an idea of your earning capacity. “I often work with people who may be permanently or temporarily inactive, or not fully employed, and there is a fear factor of not knowing what to attract in terms of your own abilities,” she says. “And it is really a good time to at least think about and plan how you will need to be more or less financially independent at some point in your own life and what does that mean?”
Study the law
Take the time to learn full details of the laws in your state and how they apply to alimony. There are many different types of child support payments and researching what you can realistically ask for in your state will not only help you set up your case, but also help you meet expectations. “If you are expecting a lifelong support and, let’s just say, the rule of thumb is that this is half of your marriage,” says Vasileff, “you might get a really nasty surprise and, without this kind of negotiation, you might not be able to negotiate knowledge. “
Make a budget
You will be paying withholdings and attorney’s fees, so make sure you actually have the resources to make these payments on time. “Lawyers are not compassionate and don’t often work for free,” says Vasileff. Also, when you start preparing for your divorce, make sure you set a budget. It’s an expensive process, and if you go into it without a plan, you can be prepared for a problem down the line. “Everyone is planning a wedding or a bar mitzvah or a cruise,” says Vasileff. “Very few people budget for a divorce and you need to understand that there is a cost to divorce and it helps to think about it beforehand so you are not surprised and unprepared.”
Manage your expectations
While every state has uniform guidelines for child support, very few states have such guidelines when it comes to child support payments. “It’s very discretionary,” says Vasileff. “It is weighted with certain factors and the factors are listed in the case law and in the statutory provisions. But how you apply these factors leads to very different results. “
An example from Vasileff: “Let’s be happy and say we have $ 20 million and we’re going to split $ 20 million between the two of us. I could probably live off the interest on $ 10 million, which then affects the type of child support I receive because it is factored in. However, when we have $ 100,000 in debt, no savings, and we are paychecks, alimony becomes even more important as an element in that calculation. It is case-specific. “
Plan for contingencies
“If you are currently in need of your other spouse’s support, you need to make sure you have an emergency plan, have an emergency fund in case something happens and you don’t get any assistance that month, or six months, or if he or she falls off the ground “, Says Vasileff. They also want to make sure that their obligations to you are covered in case they die or something unforeseen happens. Vasileff emphasizes that it is important to protect yourself from unwanted surprises.
Think twice before giving up on maintenance
In some divorce cases, a party may choose to forego maintenance based on the assumption that they are making enough themselves that they don’t need anything from their ex to make ends meet. However, Vasileff suggests that keeping the door open slightly, even on a small amount like a dollar year, allows renegotiation if something disastrous happens. “If you have given up child support, it will be taken off forever,” she says. “The door has closed and under no circumstances can you go back for assistance. So giving up on maintenance is a big deal. There are reasons to forego maintenance, but for the average person with a paycheck, I would think twice. “
To agree to nothing out of court
Once the maintenance payment has been set down in a judgment, a party cannot unilaterally change it and, for example, decide that it will only pay every two months. Such a decision can only be made by going to court. However, some couples may enter into some sort of handshake agreement and allow a partner to skip a payment here and there. Vasileff advises against this because of the slippery slope. “What if it becomes routine?” She asks. “‘I don’t want to pay you this month, but I’ll pay you to catch up in three months’ time.’ And then in three months’ time they’ll go on vacation while you wait for your check. Once you slip and let that happen and activate it, it’s a lot harder to get through. “
Keep emotions out
The idea of holding someone in court for “all they have” has become a stereotype in divorce talks, but the truth is you don’t want to approach a maintenance negotiation with something like malice or greed, it only gets more negative refuel. “You are telling me that after everything I have, you will look for my carotid artery. What do you think I am going to do? “Says Vasileff.” I will strike back. You have to come back to that: ‘How is this transaction carried out and what is in my best interests to achieve this?’ “
Do your homework
Even if you think you’ve read all about maintenance, read More The better prepared you are, the less likely you are to stumble upon something unexpected. “Preparation is the best defense you can have. Since you save money by managing expectations, you save legal fees, therapy costs, and everything. And it sets the tone so you understand it’s a process. It’s not a sprint. It’s going to be a marathon. And you have to hold out and keep your energy at different points in time. “
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