I. Spousal Support
a. Even though child support is considered more important than spousal support/alimony, spousal support is much harder to deal with both for the spouses and the legal professionals who provide service: Attorneys, Mediators, Divorce Coaches, Document Preparation person, Therapists.
b. Spousal support was created in the late 1800’s when the culture was structured that most women did not work outside the home. It was designed as a way for women to be financially supported if their husbands divorced them.
c. Not gender-driven, while gender plays a huge role when the woman makes more than the man. Many men do not like the ties to the relationship that are created through spousal support, while most women have a visceral reaction against a women paying spousal support even though women want to make as much if not more than men. We still have a little more work to do with gender equality in the area of spousal support.
d. Reasons for spousal support
ii. Equalize the standard of living
iii. Long term marriage with one spouse running the domestic side of the family and in need of training and/or education to enter the job market; and there’s also the emotional side of going into the job market, lack of self-confidence
iv. The divorce has caused one spouse to have to move to be able to afford the cost of living on their own
e. How to Prepare for the Mediation for spousal support
i. Get Legal Advice and learn the law
ii. Dress well for the mediation
iii. Come to Compromise while having your bottom
iv. Appreciate your spouse’s role in running the family
v. Grieve before mediating because a healed heart will support a clear mind, which is needed to properly negotiate.
f. The Negotiation
i. Recipient spouse: Explain why you are asking for support without using the words Fair or Obligated. Discuss budget, housing, proximity to the children’s school, dividing children’s upcoming expenses, etc.
ii. Payor spouse: Explain why you want to limit or eliminate support
iii. Payor spouse: NEVER disparage your spouse and the roll they played in the marriage. This is about money and being able to afford to live or not live on whatever money they make.
iv. Both spouses: NEVER give a mental health diagnosis “confidentially” of your spouse to the mediator. It only makes you look bad, petty and back-biting, and does nothing to advance the mediation. The mediator doesn’t make decisions for you, so that information won’t motivate the mediator towards decision-making that favors the divulging spouse. It makes the divulger of the information look like they’re bottom-feeding, grabbing for straws to influence the mediator – but you can’t influence a good mediator.
v. Both spouses: DO NOT ARGUE. Don’t negotiate angry. Mediation isn’t therapy. The more you argue, the more time and money you’re wasting because you’re forcing your mediator to parent you, give you a time out, and separate both spouses so that they can get the work of negotiating done.
vi. Once both spouses have explained their positions/ideas regarding spousal support, the payor spouse should initiate the first compromise:
1. Monthly payment: State approved calculator number or something else once the calculator is run
2. Lump Sum
3. Limit years
4. 100% of a community asset or two
vii. Recipient spouse response
1. Don’t require monthly payments to make the payor spouse mad.
2. Look at where your negotiable points are.
3. Don’t tell the payor that you’re doing them a favor with your offer. Keep it a straight negotiation.
4. Don’t defend your position as the homemaker. The law is the foundation from which the negotiation begins. If your spouse doesn’t understand the importance of your role, he or she will when they become a single parent.
5. Be realistic about money and employment opportunities. Don’t be unrealistic about entering the workforce.
6. Don’t get angry. Don’t pout. Don’t cave just to end the negotiations.
II. Child Support
a. Monthly Amount and what it covers vs Miscellaneous Expenses
b. The big wrinkle in child support is the time spent with the children by each parent. The time spent with each parent influences the monthly amount if your state uses a state approved calculator.
c. Negotiable Issues
i. Co-Parenting Schedule: depends on the following line items:
1. Children’s schedule first; parents’ schedules second.
2. Overnight visits
3. Parent/Child relationship problems
4. Substance abuse issues
5. Infant breastfeeding
6. Living accommodations for the children at each parent’s house
7. Availability of both parents on their parenting time
ii. Monthly amount for food, shelter and clothing
iii. Working together regarding decisions for all the Miscellaneous Expenses, to include school, summer camp, tutoring, social& athletic activities, medical treatment, therapy.
1. The way child support and the co-parenting schedule is negotiated is important because it sets the tone for the co-parenting relationship.
2. Allowing sufficient Time to discuss expenses before it’s time to pay.
3. Using a Mediator, Divorce Coach, Therapist, or a Special Master to be a third party will help parents come to compromise after the divorce is final.
d. How to Negotiate
i. Don’t disparage the other spouse
ii. Don’t punish the other spouse by proposing a restrictive schedule if the other parent has been a dialed in parent.
iii. Make the discussion child-focused. Think of what it will be like for your child to move between houses.
iv. Come to the mediation to compromise. Otherwise, schedule a Hearing to have a Judge make decisions for you.
v. Speak respectfully to your spouse. Lower your tone of voice. Don’t stress out; let your mediator do their job to balance the conversation.
vi. But don’t let yourself be controlled or bullied.
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