Interviewer: What factors cause some of the biggest swings in alimony calculations?
Tanya: I am doing a pretty awful case right now where the husband makes a lot of money and the wife makes very little money. They are also fighting over custody. She is not old. She can be working full time.. She openly cheats, lies and hurts the children. She is not a good person, not a good mom. But, at the end of the day, I do not think that the court is going to take the children totally away from her.
The court is going to leave her with the children at least fifty percent of the time or part of the time. So the court will not give her much less alimony because the children are still going to have to live with her.
There is a rationale for this. If it was just her, it would not be a problem. However, knowing that these children that came from this nice household are going to be sleeping in her home for a good portion of the time, the Court will give her that money to cushion the children.
All the other factors might be there: It is not such a long marriage; she can work; she is not old or disabled. However, at the end of the day, the courts are still going to be neutral and give her a good amount of money if the husband is a high earner. This is because the children are going to need a roof over their heads when they are with her. So whoever is responsible for the children or what the responsibilities are relative to the children I think is a really big factor.
Interviewer: Do some people use the children as pawns to get more alimony, more child support?
Tanya: Most definitely, yes they do. They can try to limit parenting time and allege that the children are in a really bad place when they sleep over at the other person’s house. I think that is one of the very important things that the courts look at in a very objective fashion. The Courts always give priority to the best interest of the children and if there is evidence that the home is unsuitable, the Court will take action.
Interviewer: If someone is getting alimony and child support, does the court have any discretion to direct how child support or alimony is spent? Are there requirements?
Tanya: The courts generally do not direct how people use their money. They estimate what the needs are of the person, based on budgets. We constantly submit budgets to the court. They estimate what they need and what the children’s needs are. The parties fill out Case Information Statements which indicate the household budget and assets, income and liabilities.
Sometimes the parents spend their money properly. Sometimes, they do not. But the courts generally do not say, “This has to be spent on this, and this has to be spent on that.” The courts can say, “You are responsible for this percentage of medical bills. You are responsible for this percentage of sports bills, extracurricular bills, college and so on and so forth.” The courts do not direct you as to how to spend your money. They are saying you can afford it so you have to pay. But they do not say you have to spend X dollars on food and X dollars on clothes.
Interviewer: How often do you hear complaints from either the man or the woman that the other party is spending the money on themselves and not the kids?
Tanya: I hear that all the time. However, there is nothing you can do. There is only so much micromanagement the court can do.
The courts are a very neutral zone. The big consideration is they do not want anyone on welfare and they do not want any children exposed to drugs or alcohol. These are some really basic premises.