If you ask judges, they will tell you that alimony cases are far easier than those who involve child custody. Have you ever wondered what factors the judges consider when determining whether there is a legal ground for alimony? Although it may seem like the sum and duration of the alimony are up to judge’s will, the truth is that they follow an established set of rules when deciding on the details.
How Do the Judges Determine the Alimony Amount?
Here are some general factors that every judge considers:
- Estimated monthly earnings of each spouse
- Evaluation of monthly expenses after the divorce for each spouse
- The extent to which the alimony will affect the lifestyle of both parties. The idea is to try and maintain the same “living standard” as during the marriage. If not, the court will look to make a balance and keep things as close to that standard as possible.
You could say that the court is trying to be fair to both spouses. The chances are neither of you will be able to keep the same living standard as before, which is why the judges will try to find a solution to equally share the pain of divorce in terms of finances.
How Do the Savings Play a Role in Deciding the Alimony?
In an alimony case, the judge’s objective is to aim to keep both spouses as close to the living standard they had while the marriage was in progress. Where do the savings fit with that living standard?
According to laws in Florida, savings should not be used as a legal ground to increase the alimony amount. The laws in the US vary from state to state, and you can try to oppose this opinion if you have experience and skilled lawyer by your side.
The 40% Rule
Some judges revealed that they had used the so-called 40% rule. It involved paying attention that the alimony payers will keep at least 40% of their estimated monthly income. That means the maximum amount set for alimony and child support payments is 60% of their earnings. The explanation is that this rule ensures that the payer will still have the motivation to work and earn money.
The 40% rule is merely a guideline, and it is not something that all the judges follow. Many of them often tend to determine larger alimony amounts, especially if the payee has several children and lack of job skills.
A crucial part of estimating the alimony amount is figuring out “reasonable earning” of both parties. The payers, however, sometimes resort to switching jobs and accepting a less-paid one only because it means they would pay reduced alimony.
Take the example of a doctor working in Miami and making $180,000 per year. He suddenly decides opening an office in a small town and moving there even though it brings him only $80.000 per year.
In the above situation, it is the judge’s discretion to set the alimony amount based on the previous earnings. The payer may try to prove that the move was justified due to stress or another reason, but the final decision is up to the judge.