You want alimony. You need alimony. But have you really thought about how to make a persuasive case for alimony?
You’ve heard the phrase “facts tell, but stories sell” right? It’s used in the context of sales. Well, think of yourself as a salesperson, trying to sell someone - your spouse, a mediator, or the judge - on your request for alimony.
In most states, alimony is based on some version of “need and ability to pay.” So the numbers - like your income and your expenses - are really important. They’re the “facts.” Which is why we show you here how to create a rock solid budget.
Craft a convincing story to tell your listener why you’re entitled
to the alimony you’re seeking.
Telling the story of why you should receive the alimony you’re asking for isn’t that hard. But reality is, most people don’t do it. Don’t let that be you!
Here’s an easy way to create your alimony story: Find out the factors that your state considers in deciding alimony. Below we’ve listed some of the most common ones. For each factor, take your personal situation and apply it to them. This is as simple as writing out the details of your life that fit each factor. We’ve got some questions below each factor to get you thinking. Think of the factors - and our prompts - as a starting point that you can expand upon as you see fit.
· The length of your marriage
What year were you married? How many years have you been married? How old were you when you got married (e.g. right after college or later in life)?
· Your age and health
How old are you? How many years do you have to go until you can collect Social Security? Do you have any health conditions that could impact your ability to work/earn an income? How long have you had that health condition(s)? Are there examples when your health condition actually prevented or restricted you from working?
· Your educational background
Do you have an associates or bachelors’ degree? In what? Do you have any graduate degrees? What type of student were you (e.g. valedictorian or struggled all the way through)? Does your educational background limit or advance your ability to earn income?
· Your employment history
What jobs have you held both before and during your marriage? Did you leave the workforce at any point during your marriage? If so, how long were you/have you been out of the workforce? Did you receive promotions or demotions or layoffs? What would it take to advance your career or be ready to re-enter and compete in today’s workplace?
· Your contributions to your marriage or to your spouse’s career
What things, both large and small, have you personally done to contribute to your marriage? How have you contributed to your spouse’s career (e.g. hosting company dinners, helping write a speech)? Have you made personal sacrifices, such as moving cities for your spouse’s career? Have you been in charge of maintaining your home, doing the cooking and cleaning, paying bills, etc.? Does your spouse travel regularly for work while you stay home to manage the house and children?
· Your ability to earn income and acquire assets in the future
What would you need to do in order to increase your income-earning ability (e.g. take a class, obtain a degree)? Are there non-physical limitations to your ability to do so, like very young children at home? When will your youngest be of school age? How long would it take you to re-enter the work force? Will you earn enough from your job to pay your own expenses?
· Whether you will be the primary caretaker to your children after divorce
What are the ages of your children? What was your arrangement for child-care during the marriage - did your spouse want you to be home or did you have a nanny? How often will your spouse have your children during the work week? Do you have a special needs child that requires your increased time and attention?
· The amount of wealth with which you’ll be leaving the marriage
Will you have any assets that generate income to help support you, e.g. interest on investments? Will you need to continue working for many years to save money for retirement? Will you have enough monthly income between your own income and what is generated from assets to support yourself or will there be a shortfall?
· Anything else that might be important
Did your spouse spend your money frivolously or recklessly - like on gambling - such that there isn’t much left to divide? Did your spouse have bad conduct that might be relevant to your alimony request? What other unique factors might apply to you?
Take your time in completing this exercise. After you take a first pass, keep thinking over the next few days. Likely you’ll remember more things to include.
Once you feel like you’ve written down everything you can think of, turn what you’ve written into a story. You don’t have to be a skilled writer. You can simply take the bullets of what you’ve written and turn them into sentences that weave together. Then, read your story out loud. Ask a friend with a critical ear to hear your story. Is it honest and detailed? Does it instill in your listener a belief that you need the financial support you’re seeking? If not, keep refining your story until it does.
Remember, facts are important. But weaving those facts into a compelling story can make all the difference when it comes to receiving the alimony you desire.