Will I owe alimony? This is a question on the mind of many people who are considering making the decision to move forward with a divorce. Today, I had a call from a man who has been married for 20 years in a very unhappy marriage. Can he afford a divorce? That was his question. My answer was, the decision to get divorced or not, is not really a financial question.
Though a divorce clearly has financial consequences, the decision to get a divorce is one that should be based on your relationship and your emotional, physical, spiritual AND financial needs.
If divorce will impact you in a financially negative way today - chances are it will impact you even more significantly in a year from now. The financial impact will likely only get worse, not better, with time.
So, will you have to pay alimony? Though there are't clear cut answers - If you make 20% or more than your spouse and you have been married for more than 5-10 years, the answer is likely yes. The shorter the duration of the marriage, the less likely alimony will be assessed. Also, the closer the incomes are to one another, the less likely alimony will come into play. Unlike child support, alimony in Florida is not a formula (at least not yet), so the determination of whether alimony will be owed and how much is a very complicated question that involves many factors.
If it is determined that it is an alimony case, the next assessment is how much and for how long. This is even harder to determine without a thorough analysis of facts. Apart from very long term marriages (18+ years), most alimony claims will be anywhere from 1 year in duration to ½ the length of the marriage. Long-term marriages could result in alimony owed up through the payor's retirement age, or permanently. The amount that will be paid will likely be somewhere between 20-40% of a party's net income. This is a rough estimate and there are many factors to take into consideration such as child support, equitable distribution (dividing up assets and debts) and the payors deductions from their gross income.
Many times in the process of a divorce we structure settlement agreement that, in essence, buy out the alimony debt from the receiver by giving a larger amount up front. It is also important to remember that alimony is typically taxable to the payee and tax deductible to the payor.
If you are considering a divorce a free consultation with an experienced and local divorce attorney is always important but even more so if your case is likely one where alimony will be due.