Kim and Paul: Spousal Support

The Situation:

Kim, age 62, and Paul, 61, were married for 40 years. They had three children – all grown and independent. The spouses had married at age 22 and 21, respectively. During their marriage, Paul was the primary wage-earner. Kim held part-time office jobs while caring for their children. When they were grown, Kim began to feel without a purpose and became a trained and licensed nutritionist. A couple years later, she decided a separation from Paul was the only means to her personal fulfillment.

Her nutrition practice was emotionally satisfying, though the financial rewards were inadequate. She hoped eventually to earn an annual income of $35,000. Paul, on the other hand, was earning $95,000 a year.

The Process:

When Paul first met with his attorney, he was devastated. He had believed his marriage would last their lifetime. Now he faced the prospect of paying spousal support instead of preparing to enjoy his retirement. He decided to meet with a [NJCLG] divorce coach to help resolve his anger and disappointment. As a result of this decision, he was able to accept the end of his marriage more readily. He saved not only time and emotional distress, but money that would have been wasted in fighting an inevitable divorce.

Signing the Participation Agreement:

Kim retained a [NJCLG] collaboratively trained lawyer as well, and engaged the services of her own divorce coach. Four-way meetings between Paul, Kim, and their attorneys were held. They signed the [links to Glossary of Terms] Participation Agreement and agreed to negotiate instead of going to Court. They then met with a [NJCLG] financial adviser. The adviser gathered information on the couple’s combined income, reviewed their assets and debts, and worked with Kim and Paul to develop budgets.

At the next four-way meeting, Kim admitted to feeling guilty about her decision to separate and did not want to be unkind to Paul. With the help of his divorce coach, Paul concluded that he would be better able to accept the separation if he could make a clean break with Kim.

Reaching a Creative Spousal Support Agreement:

As a result, after several additional four-way meetings, Kim and Paul reached a mutually beneficial agreement: he would make a single, final payment to Kim instead of monthly payments. She was satisfied with the arrangement because she would not have to pay taxes on a lump sum and would achieve the independence she desired. Paul was happy to have a clean break so that he could reconstruct his life. 
It was unlikely the court would have ordered a lump sum payment – even if it was best for both parties. 
The collaborative law process allowed a much more creative solution to the couple’s spousal support issue than any ordered by a court.