So the question “how can I avoid paying alimony?” is a question that divorce attorneys come across a lot. In reality, the time to ask that question, is before you get married. And the answer is simple – you would have a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a contract that you enter into with your intended spouse and you resolve many issues. One of those issues being alimony, you would simply make a term of the prenuptial agreement that neither party would have to pay alimony. In the instance of divorce, if your prenuptial agreement complies with your state laws, it’s enforceable and the issue of alimony should not arise at all during the divorce. That’s the safest way.
However, if you are married and you are asking this question, you let’s say the issue of divorce has not arisen. You could also get a post-nuptial agreement that you would enter into with your spouse. This is similar to the prenuptial agreement, wherein both of you would waive your right to collect alimony from the other.
Usually when you’re married and you’re looking to avoid paying alimony, it’s because you’re heading toward a divorce. The time to ask this question is before you talk to your spouse about divorce planning.
Understand Your Risk of Alimony
The first thing you do is you decide what kind of risk you’re at for, for paying alimony. So for instance, if there’s a large income disparity, you make significantly more income than your spouse. There’s a good chance that you all have to pay alimony. That chance becomes less if there is an income disparity, or if it’s a very brief marriage. If it’s a short marriage, then the likelihood that you’re going to pay alimony is significantly decreased. Similarly, if your spouse is educated and has employable talents that are not outdated, like for instance, if they have a law degree, a computer programming degree or certification, they are a college graduate, or they had significant work experience before the marriage and just left the workforce for a few years – all of those things go into a calculation that the spouse could be rehabilitated and you might want to start that process before you begin to talk to your spouse about the idea of divorce.
Fault in a Divorce and How it Affects Alimony
The other thing that matters is fault. If you’re looking at a divorce because your spouse has done something – such as adultery — that is something that you would want to collect evidence. Don’t create drama. Don’t talk to your spouse about the infidelity. Get the evidence of the fault. In other cases, if your spouse is abusive, get evidence. The more unlikeable you can make your spouse, if you end up in a trial over the issue of alimony, the better your chances are. You should focus on gathering evidence to help to prove fault.
If there are children, you would look to have custody of the children. It may be appropriate for you to have custody of the children. If it’s not, then you might want shared physical custody of the children. But you analyze that and you set the stage so that it would be a plausible result for the children to go and live with you at the time of separation or the children to at least be with you for half of the time. The more custody of the children you have, the less alimony you’ll pay, or the less likelihood there is that you will be paying alimony.
There’s a lot of moving pieces and it’s best to really think it through and make a plan. How do you get custody? How do you increase your chances to have at least equal access to the children? You get more involved in the day-to-day life. You cook for them. You take them on their play dates. You take them to school. You do the homework with them. You get as involved with the children as much as possible. And again, collect evidence of that — even if it means delaying your exit from the marriage. But at the same time, don’t procrastinate. Don’t take too long. The longer you’re in the marriage, the greater, the likelihood that you’re going to pay alimony and the greater, the likelihood that you’re going to pay alimony for a long period of time.
Make a Plan
Make a plan to get out as quickly as possible. Don’t collect any more assets. There are other things – for instance, if you work overtime, you might want to cut a lot back on overtime. Don’t do anything to really increase your income. As you’re approaching the period where you’re going to start, the divorce process, don’t increase the amount of income that you’re bringing in. And perhaps the best thing that you could do is talk to a divorce attorney. Before you talk to your spouse, put together a cohesive plan, something that makes sense for you.
If you are going to pay alimony, then look at the alternatives, how you can decrease, or at least minimize that hurt. There are ways for instance, alimony can be indefinite. In other words, you keep paying it and there is no end to it. So you would negotiate a definite term of alimony like five years, three years, etc- depending on the circumstances.
And in the period in that term, you could negotiate a higher amount that decreases. So the alimony may start out higher, but gets less and less (decreases) over time. So that’s one alternative. Another thing that you can do is you could buy out alimony. So you might transfer an asset that an income producing asset or an asset of some kind of value that you spouse would have in lieu of alimony. You could look into taking some of your retirement assets and you transfer that to your spouse – with the idea that you would be able to build your retirement assets back up.
It’s a good idea to evaluate your circumstance, make a plan, do whatever, make whatever effort you could do ahead of time to minimize the risk of alimony. If you’re going to pay alimony, then what you need to do is plan how you are going to pay a lesser amount for a shorter period of time.
You can come and talk to us. We are skilled and making plans to avoid and minimize the risk of alimony and happy to help.
At Paré & Associates, LLC (formerly the Law Office of Alice Paré), we have been helping clients in Clarksburg, Gaithersburg, throughout Montgomery County, and all of Maryland for more than thirty (30) years.
Our divorce attorneys are located in Germantown and available to meet with you in person, over the phone, or online – however, you prefer. If you are ready to consult with an attorney, or just need some questions answered, contact us here, go online to schedule an appointment, or call us at 301-515-1190 to set up an initial consultation.