This week I'm writing a series of blog postings on mediating your alimony agreement. Yesterday I wrote about how alimony is supposed to work.
Discussing Alimony Can Be Emotionally Tense
Unfortunately, the issue of alimony payments can cause emotional tension between spouses because the amount paid – or whether alimony payments need to be paid at all – is determined by factors that may have led to the divorce in the first place. These factors under the ARA can include:
The current or the potential income of each spouse,
Contributions, both economic and non-economic, to the marriage,
The marital lifestyle and the ability of each spouse to maintain it after the divorce, and
Lost professional opportunities due to the marriage.
Each one of these is a potential landmine for disagreement and negative emotions, because they are often the very source of the disputes that led to the divorce, and now they have to be distilled into a dollar amount for the purposes of support payments. Alimony is also often complicated by the feelings each spouse has how the marriage ended. If one spouse feels he or she dutifully stuck through the marriage – through the good times and bad – only to be left by the other spouse, that is likely to affect both spouses’ perspectives on alimony.
In the end, alimony is highly symbolic. It represents the sacrifices made by both spouses during the marriage. What each spouse gave up, what each spouse put in. A lower-earning spouse may feel he or she sacrificed his or her career for the family, only to told they must fend for themselves financially, long after their professional opportunities dried up. A higher-earning spouse may feel he or she spent the entire marriage supporting the financial needs of the other spouse, only to find that he or she must keep paying – even if lower-earning spouse was the one who chose to end the marriage and file for divorce.
Divorce Mediation Keeps the Focus on the Future
It is very easy, and all too common, for alimony discussions to focus on the past. If one spouse sacrificed professional advancement to enable the other spouse to climb the corporate ladder, the alimony discussion may cause lingering resentment to resurface.
Divorce mediation minimizes these conflicts by keeping the focus on the future, not on what has already been said and done. The whole point of alimony and spousal support is to ensure that both spouses have some financial stability after the divorce. Divorce mediation recognizes that alimony is not about retribution, but rather making sure that both spouses are able to live comfortably in their post-divorce life.
Tomorrow I'll write about alimony solutions through divorce mediation.