Alimony can cause you serious financial strain. Being newly single and having only one income means you’ve already had to make big changes to your monthly budget and lifestyle. Some individuals may do something sneaky, like devise clever plans to get around the strain that alimony causes on their finances.
However, tempting as this may be, it is important you approach the matter with care, concern, and ethics. This way, you can avoid any legal ramifications that may result from attempting to avoid your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
The question is, how can you legally avoid handing over loads of money to your ex each and every month?
Following are nine tactics you can use to keep more of the money you earn – and avoid paying alimony.
Strategy 1: Avoid Paying It In the First Place
The best way to get out of making alimony payments is to avoid the need to make them in the first place. Many couples that seek to marry opt to protect themselves by drafting up a prenuptial agreement before the marriage is made legal.
This document includes full disclosure of each individual’s income. It includes the assets that each spouse will bring to the union. In this manner, the document lays out exactly which marital property belongs to whom. This special document should be prepared by your attorney then approved by a judge before your marriage.
If you did not think to do this prior to getting married, do not worry. You can create a similar document even after the wedding is over. A postnuptial agreement contains most of the same info you get in a prenuptial agreement, but is completed and made final after the marriage is finalized.
If divorce is already in your future, these two options will be of no use to you. You can instead consider creative ways to keep your spouse satisfied without the need to make alimony payments. When negotiations take place, consider offering them a larger share of marital assets, larger chunk of retirement accounts, or even the marital home.
By doing this, you may save yourself from having to make alimony payments. Be sure to keep an open line of communication between yourself and your spouse. Carefully consider their wants and needs. That way, you will have an edge on the situation; just be sure to get the help of a mediator or attorney who will help negotiate a fair settlement.
Lump sum payments, sometimes called buyouts, lump sum alimony, or spousal maintenance buyout, is the payment of alimony in one lump sum. Instead of getting periodic payments made over a designated time frame, the spouse on the receiving end is given one large payment. This can be done in the form of a cash lump sum payment, or through marital property division. In a cash lump sum, the spouse paying the alimony will write one check for the entire amount he or she will owe to the dependent spouse.
In marital property division, one party agrees on giving up a portion of whatever assets they are entitled to over to their spouse in lieu of paying alimony. If you choose to take this route, consider a few things before any decisions are made.
For example, think about how this will affect your taxes. In 2018, tax differences exist for the treatment of lump sum alimony payments versus payments of alimony made over time. Talk to an accountant for the best information about your situation.
The total value of a lump sum alimony payout will be less than the total you would get from periodic payments. How will you determine the fairness of the award? Furthermore, periodic payments may be stopped after your spouse moves in with a significant other or gets remarried. Consider all angles before making this decision.
Strategy 2: Prove Your Spouse Was Adulterous
Laws about paying alimony vary from state to state. Even with these variants, many do not allow unfaithful spouses to vie for alimony payments. This is going to require more than your word indicating that your spouse was unfaithful during your marriage. You must bear the burden of proof. This may come in the form of showing photographs and video to the judge of your spouse.
You should get started immediately on collecting witness statements and any other incriminating evidence you can think of that shows your spouse was undoubtedly having an affair.
The judge will have the final say about whether or not your evidence counts as proof to support the claims of adultery, and how it will affect any alimony payments.
Strategy 3: Change Up Your Lifestyle
You’ve likely already made some major changes in light of your divorce. It is rare that the higher-earning spouse will be given alimony payments, so it is a good time for you to consider just how much money you truly need to cover your expenses each month. If you earn more than your spouse, it is likely you will be responsible for making alimony payments. To avoid this financial conundrum, consider downgrading – a lower paying job, for example, may be the way.
Downsize your income and live lean. You will need to carefully plan and budget your way through, but a little work and help from friends and financial gurus will save you a lot of headache about alimony.
Strategy 4: End the Marriage ASAP
Your state is going to determine the amount of alimony that a spouse pays. However, one factor that states often consider is the overall length of the marriage. Typically, the longer a person is in a marriage, the more likely it is that you will be faced with higher alimony payments. If you know your marriage is not going to last, consider ending it as quickly as you can. Stretching it out longer and longer just means more emotional pain and longer lasting alimony payments.
Strategy 5: Keep Tabs on Your Spouse’s Relationship
Some states will stop making alimony payments mandatory when the spouse who is getting them begins living with a new partner or significant other. This info may be written in the fine print on your divorce decree; ask your attorney to go over the section about alimony payments with you for the best information.
A new marriage will usually allow the payments to come to an end, so keep track of what your ex-spouse is up to when it comes to their relationships. Keep tabs on them via social media and through friends. Make sure you are aware of when these life changes occur so you can get those alimony payments to cease.
Strategy 6: Have A Judge Evaluate Your Spouse’s Fitness to Work
After a divorce, a spouse may prefer to remain as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent, even though this causes financial hardship or is not 100% necessary. If your spouse is educated and has the skills to obtain a job that pays well, you can ask a judge to perform a vocational evaluation. It is an objective assessment that provides you with insight into what your spouse can potentially earn by taking a job in their area of knowledge and skills.
Even if a job is not available at the time you go to court, alimony may still be ordered on a temporary basis. This is still preferable to payments that are issued on a long-term basis or indefinitely.
Bear in mind your spouse may just need some space while they work to get on their feet and establish their own household, find a job that pays well, and learn how to live on their own again. Short-term alimony payments will help them along and get them in the right direction faster, especially if they took time off to care for children or help you advance your own career.
Strategy 7: Prove They Don’t Need It
Some spouses who are simply being vindictive seek to gain alimony payments, even if they do not need the money to maintain their standard of living. For example, does your ex have access to a large monetary sum, like a trust fund or stock portfolio? Do they have an inheritance or savings account? If so, them being unemployed may not affect their ability to transition to a single lifestyle. Your ex may not even need an alimony payment to make this lifestyle change.
Be sure to investigate whether or not your spouse has any assets in their name that would keep you from having to make alimony payments. To do this, you may wish to hire a professional forensic accountant to help you track down this asset or assets. While accountants definitely charge a premium for their services, your avoidance of lengthy and costly alimony fees will be well worth the price.
Strategy 8: Your Spouse May Not Get Alimony If They Don’t Have Custody
If your spouse is not awarded sole custody of the kids, they may not need money from alimony payments. Caring for children means that you have a significantly higher cost of living. Taking away the financial responsibility of providing care for your children may just lower the amount of money that is needed for your spouse to maintain their living standard. It may just give your spouse the chance to find their footing on their own in terms of their finances – without the help of alimony payments.
Your ex will not need additional money, and you will decrease the amount of alimony you can provide by being the sole caregiver for your kids. You will face high costs like daycare, groceries, education, and clothing in paying for the children, which will cut into your expendable income. Some children have special needs, or ongoing expenses like diapers, doctor visits, or tutoring. The costs associated with raising a child or children may just eliminate your ability to pay alimony altogether.
In some cases, your spouse may even be given the order to make child support payments that can help take care of the costs associated with caring for and raising a young child. Be sure to carefully consider if you can be the sole caregiver for your children. You should never use this strategy as a means to avoid paying alimony or get child support monies from your spouse.
Strategy 9: Put an End Date on Alimony Payments
Alimony payments do not have to be a lifelong affair. You should strongly consider including a termination date in your divorce decree or agreement. This will remove the need to return to court at a later date, saving you from financial burden. The payments will simply terminate.
End dates for short marriages are usually one half the length of the union. It is much harder to predict the alimony termination date on a marriage that was lengthier, however. You should speak with an attorney to figure out what end date would be reasonable for your situation, given the duration and individual circumstances of your marriage.
Permanent alimony may still be ordered by the judge during your divorce finalization. It is usually issued when a spouse lacks the ability to support themselves due to extenuating circumstances, such as age or disability.
There are a few good ways to avoid paying alimony. They are all legal and ethical, which is the best approach to take in this situation. Not only is it easier on your conscience, but you will be doing right by the courts, too. In order to get around making these payments, you may wish to use one of the expert strategies discussed here instead of using a risky method, like spontaneously quitting your job or, worse, filing for bankruptcy.
The important thing is to be smart and think everything through carefully. You must be willing to sacrifice some things in your life to keep your money closer to you and away from your ex-spouse. Consider making any changes you can afford to do. Downsize your life. Apply for a job at your company that pays less. And, as always, speak with your attorney for extra help and guidance.