How to Negotiate Alimony or Spousal Support with Mediation
September 18th, 2023
When one household becomes two, one spouse often needs to rely on spousal support from the other during the divorce process, or even after the judgment of divorce is entered. But ensuring both spouses’ needs are met doesn’t have to result in conflict or litigation. Here is what you need to know to negotiate alimony (or spousal support) with mediation in Connecticut.
How Alimony Works in Connecticut
In Connecticut, spouses have a joint duty to support one another. This duty of spousal support can extend during or even beyond the end of the marriage. When it does, it results in an “alimony” award. Connecticut divorce law says that either spouse may receive an alimony award in addition to his or her equitable division of property. The two most common types of alimony are “periodic” alimony (usually paid weekly or monthly, or “lump sum.” While periodic alimony is generally modifiable after the fact upon a showing of substantially changed circumstances, lump sum alimony is fixed and irrevocable when ordered.
Factors Your Spousal Support Attorney Must Prove in Court
When spouses cannot agree on an alimony award, either party can ask the Connecticut divorce court to award alimony as part of the final hearing. There is no formula for awarding spousal support. Instead, Connecticut judges have a lot of flexibility in setting the amount and duration of alimony payments. To make the case for support, Connecticut attorneys must present evidence related to a number of statutory factors in awarding alimony:
- Length of the marriage
- Cause for the dissolution of marriage
- Age of the parties
- Health of the parties
- Station of the parties
- Amount and sources of income
- Vocation skills and employability of the parties
- Estates of the parties
- Liabilities and needs of the parties
- Desirability of custodial parent securing employment
Although the court has discretion to consider all the relevant factors, duration of the marriage, earnings (both actual and potential), age, and health are the most important factors.
Negotiating Alimony in Mediation
Not every family needs or wants to go through the time and expense of a full adversarial divorce. Most couples’ marriages can be resolved through negotiation, without the need for trial. Often, that resolution happens at divorce mediation, through negotiation by the parties and their attorneys with the help of a neutral mediator. That includes negotiating alimony.
Preparing to Negotiate Alimony
Negotiating alimony in mediation requires some preparation by both parties. The spouse requesting spousal support needs to have a reasonable expectation of what they will need to pay expenses, and a realistic plan for their own role in supporting themselves and their children. These numbers should not be based entirely on what the family’s standard of living was in the past. After all, most families will be transitioning from two incomes to one income, or from one household to two households. Both these transitions mean there will be less money to go around, and that will affect both spouses’ standard of living. Instead, the requesting spouse should prepare a reasonable expense budget that reflects where they intend to live, and necessary and appropriate expenses.
Balancing Incomes in Alimony Negotiations
Negotiating alimony also should seek to ensure both spouses are able to live with the award. A paying spouse is not going to agree to an alimony award that makes it hard for them to pay their own bills. Remember that alimony payments are awarded in addition to child support, so any spouse requesting alimony payments should also know how much they will receive – or be required to pay – to support the couple’s children. Consider balancing the incomes of both spouses in proposing an alimony award, so that neither spouse is impoverished by the order.
Deciding How Long Alimony Should Last
Unless the spouse requesting support is medically disabled, the parties are retired, or the parties have agreed to have one parent act as a stay-at-home parent, it is wise for the requesting party to have a plan for how they will return to the workforce and begin to support themselves. Even stay-at-home parents often have a plan to reenter the workforce after their youngest child is in school full-time. In these cases, “rehabilitative alimony” can close the income gap. It is usually time-limited, and based on the length of time it will take for the receiving spouse to become self-sufficient. When negotiating alimony, the requesting spouse should have a plan for going back to school, receiving necessary certifications, applying for jobs, and becoming financially independent.
Modifiable Alimony vs Irrevocable Support
The idea that they have to maintain contact with an ex-spouse is often a challenge for spouses seeking divorce. One way to cut those ties is to agree to a lump sum alimony award. One advantage to this is that it allows the divorce to be complete, with no strings attached, when or shortly after the judgment is signed. Another advantage is that the payor spouse may be able to negotiate a discount to the present value of a comparable award of periodic alimony, making them pay less out-of-pocket. However, an up-front payment does require the paying spouse to have liquid assets. If the receiving spouse is a spendthrift or unable to manage his or her money reasonably well, then periodic alimony may be preferable.
Another reason one might prefer periodic alimony payments is that they are modifiable by the Connecticut family court after the judgment is signed. Changes in circumstances – such as the paying spouse losing their job, or the receiving spouse finding new employment – can give the Court the authority to make adjustments to suit the needs of the parties. Before agreeing to an award of lump-sum alimony, both parties must recognize that they are giving up the right to ask the Court to change that amount in the future.
Negotiating alimony or spousal support at mediation can be a tough balance of emotions and financial practicalities. However, working with a skilled mediator, the parties can come to a reasonable agreement, and avoid the time, expense, and public exposure of a Connecticut divorce trial. The divorce mediation attorney at Lawrence & Jurkiewicz practices in Hartford and Litchfield County, helping people negotiate alimony, property distribution, and other complicated divorce issues. Please contact us today online or at (860) 264-1551 to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.
Categories: Spousal Support Alimony