Sometime ago I represented a husband in a divorce action. The client came to me some time after being represented by an attorney. Though the attorney was experienced and respected, he did not have confidence regarding her aggressiveness and zeal in pursuing this case. Upon meeting, the client and I clicked immediately and I was retained to take on his case. It was a twenty (20) year marriage wherein both parties worked, but the wife made in the mid-five figures and the husband was well over six figures. Thus in addition to property division the biggest concern for my client was spousal maintenance.
Known as alimony in other states, spousal maintenance is the continuing obligation to support one’s spouse after a divorce. Sometimes it is for a limited period of time to allow the spouse to rehabilitate their careers: such as either agreed to or awarded by the court upon the belief that the recipient spouse sacrifice their careers for the marriage and it should be given the opportunity to rehabilitate those careers to where they reasonably would have been had they not got married. Other times spousal maintenance is awarded for a long period of time (sometimes until 65 and sometimes beyond) under the argument that the recipient spouse during the marriage had enjoyed a particularly high standard of living that they cannot continue to enjoy after the divorce. The grounds here is that the support of both spouses allow the parties to work together to achieve that higher standard of living and therefore the recipient spouse is due a monthly award from the contributing spouse to maintain that standard of living as much as possible. In this case, my client was at risk for having to not only pay out a large amount of money each month to his soon to be ex-wife but also for a long period of time. Though there were other factors that contributed to it, my client and I prepared the file as best as we could. We examined his bare necessity expenses as well as what she could possibly argue. Further we had to calculate what she was possible of earning herself in the future.
At the pretrial hearing -- the four (4) hour time slot scheduled by the Court prior to trial to encourage the parties to settle their differences -- we held a series of meetings with the opposing counsel and with each other, going back and forth. When all was said and done we had negotiated a resolution that allowed my client to pay considerably less each month than what we had anticipated and for merely twenty-four (24) more months after tallying the property division and the other issues. It was a resolution with which my client was very happy.
Further the parties have been divorced for more than three (3) years now and no other issues have arisen. Though there are some attorneys that just seek best possible resolution for a client at the conclusion of their divorce without regard for the future, I always try to keep in mind the long-term effect for the client. It makes no sense to do a quick and easy for a client on unsound terms if they are just end up spending the next several years with stress and strife and thousands more in dollars of attorneys fees trying to fix what should have been done right the first time. In this case I am glad that everything has worked out for my client and he has not needed my legal services again.