Spousal support, also known as alimony, is not guaranteed, even if you do not work outside the home.
If you plan to request spousal support, either for the short-term or long-term, you’ll have to make your case for it. But how?
Strategize. First, speak to your lawyer about your expectations and situation. Each situation is different and he or she will know best whether alimony is an option. Your earning ability or capacity may be called into question, so you’ll need to discuss that. You’ll need witnesses and evidence. You and your attorney should discuss the best approach.
He or she will hand you a financial affidavit and tell you to fill it out. This balance sheet is not an easy thing to complete. If you manage the household finances and pay the bills, you’ll have a lot of the information. If not, you may have to spend time finding it, no easy task. But it’s worth the effort if you need alimony because this is THE document. The Affidavit looks at your monthly expenses and income as of your date of separation, along with your assets and debts.
Mistakes in this document can lead to credibility questions and longer negotiations about your “needs.”
Here are some tips for filling this out to make your case:
Consider timing. The affidavit looks at your expenses during separation, but it’s also a good idea to examine the trailing 12 months as well to have a clear picture of your finances.
Find everything. The list of documents you need is long. But you’ll refer to these as you fill out your financial affidavit, and it’s often easier to gather them all first. Once you have them, make copies of each item. That way you can write notes on the copy without harming the original. Your notes will be explanations of purchases. All of this helps make your case for spousal support.
Tips for Needed Documents
- Credit-card statements – A year-end summary might also be useful.
- Bank statements – You’ll need the statements from your checking account, plus copies of actual checks
- Credit Reports – Do this for you and your spouse so you can verify all lines of credit. You might uncover a surprise or two. You are allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies, which means you can actually check your credit report three times per year. Space those out to maximize their use.
- Tax Returns
- Explanation of Benefits Statements from Insurance Company – It’s often difficult to track medical expenses that are not covered by your insurance. You’ll have to start with this document. Use the “patient responsibility” portion and compare that to expenses so you can find out your out-of-pocket costs, including deductible and co-pays.
- Membership/Frequent Flyer Accounts – What benefits do you have through memberships or frequent flyer mileage? While this sounds silly to some, those 600,000 frequent flier miles are considered an asset.
- Cash Spending – This one is tough. You can use bank statements to figure out when you take out cash, but you’ll have to keep a journal to log where and when you typically spend it.
- Gifts – You’d be surprised at how much this adds up. From the small gift card for your postal carrier and children’s caretakers/teachers to the gift for your parents, you spend quite a bit each year buying things for other people. Add this up.
- Business Accounts – Did you or your spouse use a business account to pay for any personal expenses? Be sure to check these.
A lot of this is hard to figure out and find. Consider hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA™) to help you reconstruct your financial life in accurate detail. Our Raleigh divorce team can help connect you with a team of professionals through our Second Saturday divorce workshops – sign up today!