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What Is the Purpose of Alimony and Why Is It Such a Controversial Topic?

Date Posted: January 19, 2023 4:10 am

What Is the Purpose of Alimony and Why Is It Such a Controversial Topic?

Divorce Mediator Ann Goade Analyses the Purpose of Alimony and Challenges Surrounding It

Each divorce involves stress and other negative emotions. Even in uncontested divorces, spouses experience increased anxiety when dissolving the marital community in which they invested so much.

However, dealing with alimony brings things to another level. Spousal support almost always causes a heated debate between divorcing spouses in litigation because it involves money – which never goes uncontested.

The key to successful divorce mediation is understanding why alimony is such a complex topic and how spouses can overcome the surrounding difficulties.

Ann Goade discusses the issue below.

The Two Problems that Alimony Tackles

Alimony is money one spouse gives to another to help them maintain the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage. There are two main reasons why one spouse finds themselves in need of financial support:

  • Uncompensated work. The spouse who stayed at home during the marriage, raising children, and maintaining the household is left without sufficient means for life once the matrimony ends. The idea behind alimony is valuing such uncompensated work without which another spouse would not have been able to earn an income.
  • Lack of professional skills. Another reason alimony is justified is that, after the divorce, the stay-at-home spouse enters the labor market without the adequate skills to earn a living. Staying at home for so long caused them to disregard their professional career, making their income-earning skills obsolete. Spousal support serves as compensation (or a replacement pay) until the homemaker spouse undergoes necessary training and job-seeking programs (or permanently).
Granting Alimony in a Divorce

What Is the Likelihood of Granting Alimony in a Divorce?

Not all marriages are the same. Likewise, each divorce procedure is different, putting various aspects of the matrimony into focus. However, several circumstances make an alimony decision more likely:

  • Long marriages. In practice, longer marriages result in alimony. The longer the matrimony, the longer the alimony period.
  • Disability. If one spouse is disabled and cannot join the workforce after the divorce, alimony is the only way to put them in an equal position to the other spouse after the matrimony is over.
  • Personal sacrifices. Sacrificing a professional career to help the other spouse pursue their career-related or educational goals always produces alimony in a divorce. Spousal support is a way to compensate stay-at-home spouses for their sacrifice.
  • The state of marital assets. Sometimes marital assets are insufficient for an alimony buyout (taking a larger share of assets in return for waiving alimony rights), and alimony remains the only fair option.

What Problems Does Alimony Aim to Resolve?

The basic assumption of alimony is that the higher-earning spouse should pay the other spouse for a specified period after the divorce. These regular payments aim at solving two problems:

  • Compensation to the stay-at-home spouse. The spouses caring for children and the household work is unregulated and uncompensated. However, they enable the other spouse to pursue a professional career outside the home to earn an income. The way to compensate them is to oblige the employed spouse with a solid income to make replacement payments. The period of alimony can vary, depending on various circumstances.
  • Prevention of sudden lifestyle decline. Stay-at-home spouses (especially in wealthier households) enjoyed a specific standard of living during the marriage. Ending the matrimony means their lifestyle can dramatically decline. Therefore, spousal support seeks to provide support for the lower-income (or unemployed) spouse until they achieve economic independence after separation.
Alimony Cause Dispute

Why Does Alimony Cause Dispute?

Regardless of the divorce method you choose (litigation or mediation), the talks about alimony are always contentious. The spouses almost inevitably engage in fierce discussion when the topic of financial support comes to the table. The reason for that is the factors contributing to the court’s alimony decision. There is no precise formula Florida courts could use to determine the amount of alimony. Instead, they consider certain standard factors, including the length of the marriage, the income of each spouse, contributions by each spouse to the matrimony, their conduct, etc.

In most cases, issues like the contribution of each spouse and their behavior during the marriage are the prime cause of the marital crisis. Couples disagree about who contributed more to the household or what each sacrificed to support the other spouse’s professional career. Unable to resolve these disagreements, they decide to divorce. When the same issues are raised again during the divorce procedure (when discussing alimony), spouses experience negative emotions that cause them to separate in the first place.

For that reason, dealing with alimony requires a respectful attitude to the other party and a high degree of self-control. Both spouses should know that its purpose is helping the lower-income (or unemployed) spouse to stand on their feet – not reviving the past and seeking the culprit for the divorce.

Therefore, the divorce procedure you choose can significantly influence the outcome of your alimony-related dispute.

Why Is Mediation So Effective in Resolving Alimony Issues?

Litigation is an adversarial, vindictive process involving two opposing sides that fight in court using all legal means available. It is a zero-sum game in which one side’s victory means the other side’s defeat. The court process is incapable of dealing with intense emotions surrounding alimony issues. On the contrary, litigation can aggravate the situation, inflaming the emotional tension between spouses.

On the other hand, mediation offers a neutral and peaceful environment, helping the spouses to talk their way through the disagreement. One of the central aspects of mediation is its transparency and openness. The mediator encourages the parties to express their emotions, helping them relieve the tension and approach alimony issues cool-headed. Instead of intensifying the conflict (like litigation), mediation aims at de-escalation. The free flow of information enables spouses to express their resentments, concerns, and anxieties. Mediation acknowledges such emotions instead of ignoring them. As a confidential process, mediation keeps all information parties share during sessions safe from becoming part of the public record. These traits make mediation an unmatched tool for dealing with emotionally charged issues such as alimony.

Choose Mediation Over Litigation – Let Ann Goade Divorce Mediation Help Your Family

Ann Goade is a certified Florida family mediator with over 30 years of experience mediating the most contested divorce cases.

To avoid vindictive and emotionally-charged litigation – let Mrs. Goade help you deal with alimony and other divorce-related issues through peaceful negotiation.

We offer a unique mediation experience without retainers or upfront costs. Call us today at 772-288-7275 to schedule your free consultation.

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