A recent Court of Appeals decision, Myland v. Myland, has drawn attention to the question many divorcing couples face, ” Am I going to have to pay alimony, and if I do, how much and for how long?”
In the Myland case, the judge had a formula that he brought to alimony cases based on the number of years the couple had been married and what the differential in income was between them. If the couple had been married 27 years, he might award 27 % of the difference in their incomes for 1/3 the length of the marriage or 9 years.
The Court of Appeals did not approve of this approach. It stated flatly that there are no set formulas provided by the law. Instead the court pointed to 10 criteria to be reviewed and analyzed by a trial court, including among others, the prior living standard of the couple, their work history, health, needs and fault.
I don’t mean to criticize the judge. Every family law attorney knows that each judge has his or her own criteria for doing a “rough and ready” calculation of what a party should get and for how long. Lawyers will tell you that the amount and time can range from no award to permanent spousal support and the rationale used is personal to that judge.
The Myland case will now make judges cite the standards for granting support, but a cynic would remind you that the “rough and ready” calculation will still come into play at the end.
If you are looking for guidelines for how much you will have to pay or get, the answer still includes the question “Who’s your judge?”, the difference now is that there will be longer written justifications for the decision.
If you want to avoid the crap shoot of not knowing what spousal suport will be, mediate your divorce, don’t throw the dice in court.
Mediation at the beginning of your divorce lets you work out a fair settlement that both parties can live with and no second guessing about what a judge might award.
You’re in control and you’ll save a lot of stress, not to mention a lot of atttorneys’ fees.
Anybody think differently?