Spousal support guidelines can be used for settlement purposes in addition to being used by trial judges. The guidelines vary widely from state to state but all states offer some sort of calculation to use as a benchmark for what amount of support is reasonable in different situations.
Spousal Support Guidelines Can be Only a Guide
Most states use actual income and/or potential income as a guide in setting alimony (more commonly known as spousal support). There are many different options though for arranging spousal support. Some spouses will simply make monthly payments for a predetermined amount of time, but some spouses prefer to pay a one-time lump sum at the time of the divorce in exchange for an agreement by the receiving spouse to not ask for monthly payments later. There are various tax advantages and disadvantages for both the spouse making payments and the spouse receiving payments.
Options for Making an Agreement on Spousal Support
One option for spouses is to go to trial and have a court decide how spousal payments will be made, for what amount, and for what length of time. While the court can draft arrangements that are creative, it is not commonly done. It is more common for someone like a mediator who is in a position to discuss issues with both sides in creating an agreement that works for everyone. Attorneys may be able to assist their clients in coming to a creative arrangement as well, and may create a stipulated agreement for the court to sign. Attorneys are not neutral parties and must advocate for the client’s best interests.
Mediators Benefit Both Spouses
A mediator is a neutral party though who is responsible for getting an agreement without regard for benefitting one party over another. A mediator can be more flexible in working with both spouses and can help the parties draft a more creative arrangement that may benefit both spouses by addressing specific needs. For example, a spouse with few assets at the time of the divorce may rather have a one-time lump sum payment so she can purchase a home rather than monthly payments for a lifetime. It may be advantageous to the paying spouse to also make this arrangement work because he can rest assured that his spouse will be able to come back for more spousal support at a later date.
Getting Legal Help
Before going to mediation, it would be wise to consult a family law attorney to better understand your rights with regard to making or receiving spousal support. Mediators must also be familiar with the law and starting your negotiation from a place of understanding what is in your best interest under the law will save you time and put you in a better position for negotiating, whether you choose to work with a mediator or not.