Nine Tips for Deciding Fair Spousal Support

by Robin DeVito, Attorney at Law

One of the more difficult issues facing people getting divorced is the issue of spousal support. For both parties, questions generally focus on how much support will be, and how long is it paid.

There are three types of spousal support orders.

The first: Money is paid for spousal support for a period of time.

The second: Money is not being paid for support, but the recipient spouse may go into court to ask for support. This is commonly called the court reserve jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support.

Spousal support decisions during a divorceThe third: The right to ask for spousal support is terminated forever. This means that the spouse may never ask the court to order spousal support.

Through my experience as a family law attorney, I have created a list of nine tips that will help you navigate this tricky area of your divorce.

For the party requesting spousal support:

  1. Be realistic when listing your needs. Your needs are your monthly expenses. A financial specialist can assist in preparing a realistic list of expenses.
  2. Determine if there is anything you can do to increase your income instead of relying on help from support payments.
  3. Put together a plan for school or training to increase your income.
  4. Be realistic about the changes that will occur with both your household and that of your spouse.
  5. Remember that spousal support is not a number generated by a computer. While we have “rules of thumb” for the length of time support may be paid, there are a number of factors that come into play under the law to assist in the calculation of spousal support.

For the party being asked to pay spousal support:

  1. Be realistic as to the time it will take your spouse to become self-sufficient.
  2. Remember that forcing a spouse into a low paying job is counter-productive.

For both parties:

  1. Each party must fully disclose their income from all sources. A financial specialist can assist in the identification of income.
  2. The goal of each party should be self-sufficiency within a reasonable period of time. If it means paying more up front to allow the party requesting support to complete training or education to increase his or her long-term income opportunities, think about it. It makes sense.

Couples who pursue a Collaborative Divorce work with a financial specialist as part of their divorce team. If you need to work through spousal support issues, you may want to consider the Collaborative Process for your divorce.

Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego to find out whether a Collaborative Divorce is right for you.

What You Can Do to Reduce Attorney Fees and Costs and Finish Your Divorce Sooner

by Susan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorney

There are a number of ways to resolve parenting, property, debt, and support issues in a divorce.  These methods include Collaborative Divorce, hiring an attorney and attempting to settle issues outside of court, going to court and litigating unresolved issues, and working with an impartial mediator, with or without attorney involvement.

I have been a family law attorney for over 25 years.   No matter which approach you take,  there are several thingSusan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorneys you can do to reduce attorney fees and costs, minimize feelings of a loss of control over your life and the divorce process, and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the divorce.

Here are some of the things I have found will help you achieve these goals:

(1) Determine at the beginning of your case, what income, asset, and debt documentation will be needed. If you are working with an attorney or mediator, ask for a list. Whenever possible, pull together and organize the documents yourself.  Otherwise, you are going to pay your attorney’s office to do it. You will likely be asked for documentation of earned and unearned income for you and your spouse, your last two years of income tax returns, and documentation of assets owned and debts owed by you and/or your spouse, as of the date you separated.  Nearly all banks, financial institutions, and credit card companies make several months or years of statements available on line. When real property is involved, locate and copy your most recent deed, as well as a recent mortgage statement. If you or your spouse have retirement interests or investment accounts, obtain recent account statements.  Organize your information and documentation chronologically, and by account or debt.  Keep an identical copy of whatever you give your attorney, spouse, or mediator so you can readily access the information if there are follow-up questions.

(2) E-mail communications to your attorney and her or his staff are usually more cost efficient than phone calls.  Some divorces take several months or longer to complete.  Keep your e-mails to and from your attorney.  If you aren’t sure that you already asked a particular question or got an answer, review your e-mails before contacting your attorney’s office. You might find the answer in an earlier communication you’ve forgotten due to the passage of time.

(3) Unless you believe the matter is truly time-sensitive or an emergency, review, finalize, and transmit written communications to your attorney a day or more after you draft the communication.  In the interim one or more issues may resolve without attorney involvement, or you may find the answer to questions some other way. If you end up not contacting your attorney, you don’t get billed. When you review your drafts a day or so later, you may find a better or clearer way to communicate the information or ask the question. (This is also a good suggestion for attorneys).

(4) Have a written list of everything you want to ask or go over when you speak to your attorney or staff. Prepare a follow-up e-mail, or a memo to yourself confirming the important points of what you discussed.

(5) Buy and learn how to use an all-in-one printer, scanner, and fax machine. Scanned documents that are either e-mailed or “burned” onto a CD disk and sent or delivered to the attorney’s office are generally preferred. Preparing and transmitting documents this way will save you time and money.

(6) Request a periodic update from your attorney.  Determine what still needs to be done, and approximately how long will it take. Ask what you can do to keep things moving.

(7) Be open to settlement. Arrange a phone or office conference with your attorney a week or more before any settlement conference with your spouse and his or her attorney.  Verbalize your settlement preferences, and ask your attorney to identify the pros and cons of various settlement options.  Meeting with your attorney a week or so in advance of the settlement conference will give you time to think about settlement options and clarify your position on disputed issues.

(8) Last but not least, have a good outside support system.  If that’s friends or family, be sure they are objective.  Go to a therapist, even if you don’t think you need to go.  If there’s ever a time a therapist is needed, it’s when you’re getting divorced.

If you follow these suggestions, I predict you will achieve the goals identified.