Dollars And Sense: Alimony A Troubling Reality of Divorce

By: Barry Finkel

Alimony, spousal support and the concept of “continuing a lifestyle” are among a couple’s most frustrating separation and divorce issues.

It’s no surprise. In today’s troubling economy, finances are the root cause of many marital problems that lead to divorce. Even in good economic times, dividing a family’s holdings, deciding on the equitable distribution of assets, and coming to terms with alimony, spousal support or maintenance can be a significant stumbling block to finalizing the divorce and moving on with the divorcees’ respective lives.


Alimony is when money provided by one spouse is paid to the other as a result of a divorce or legal separation. It can be agreed upon through negotiations, arrived at by mediation, or ruled upon by a judge during a divorce trial. Alimony is not child support, which is meant to provide for the expenses related to rising a child or children. Alimony it intended to provide support directly to the spouse.

Dividing One Into Two

In modern society, this isn’t just about the husband providing alimony for the wife. The three situations that most often arise are when the husband works and the mother doesn’t, both spouses work, or when the wife works and the husband doesn’t.

In most situations, though, it’s most often one income supporting the household. When separation or divorce occurs, that one income must be divided into two.

Dividing one income to support two households is a challenge. Among the many issues the attorneys, mediator and / or judge must weigh when deciding upon alimony are how long the couple was married, each partner’s current age and health, how or whether one spouse contributed to the education or career success of the other, individual incomes earned, and the role child-rearing or “homemaking” played in one spouse being able to work and provide for the family.

Future income or earning potential also plays a part in how attorneys, the mediator or the judge will provdie for alimony. For example, many view with growing importance the future earning potential of both spouses, as well as their individual financial situations. If the wife, for example, was “independently wealthy,” or was educated in a profession, career or trade and therefore able to earn a living or support herself, that may affect the final determination.

Investments & Income May Off-Set Alimony

Other mitigating factors related to alimony come to bear when making such settlements or rulings. One could be the value of real estate, property or financial investments awarded as part of the final decree. If such awards are income-generating, money earned may therefore off-set the primary bread-winning spouse’s financial obligation to the other spouse.

Payment types include “permanent” alimony. This is a monthly or recurring payment made to the spouse until death or remarriage. At a time when significant resistance has emerged regarding permanent alimony, some are choosing for lump-sum payouts. Before negotiating alimony, make sure you and your family law or divorce attorney engage a qualified accountant or financial advisor versed in alimony, spousal support and the equitable distribution of marital assets. This team will protect your assets – and make certain the numbers add up as they should.



Barry I. Finkel is principal of The Law Firm of Barry Finkel P.A. , a divorce and family law firm based in Fort Lauderdale / Broward County, Florida. Since 1983, the firm has handled legal separation, simple divorce, complex and prolonged litigation, child custody / time sharing, child support, paternity actions, alimony / spousal support, estate valuation, and equitable asset dissolution and distribution. The firm advises clients at all stages of the marital and divorce process, from prenuptials to issues related to post-divorce enforcement and modification.

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