The other week I attended a continuing legal education seminar done by the Wake County Bar Association Family Law Section, and one of the segments was about alimony; specifically, it featured one of our Wake County Family Court Judges as well as an Orange/Chatham County Judge who frequently hears family law matters. Seminars and presentations featuring judges are always very helpful as you are able to gain insight into what the judge might do when you and your client are in front of him or her. Let me share the insight that I gained in regards to alimony:
The most important part of your case is your Financial Affidavit.This is the document that sets forth your monthly income and expenses. (go to the firm's resources page to download an excel-version of the Financial Affidavit).
Your Financial Affidavit needs to be credible. Many times I see people double-count expenses, or include business expenses on their Affidavits that they do not truly pay for out of pocket. An example of double-counting is to list the amount of health insurance on the first page of your Affidavit that is deducted from your paycheck and then to list it again under your expenses. I have found the better way to get this information across is to just list it on the first page and then under the expense section indicate that it is deducted from your paycheck and noted on page 1.
Your Financial Affidavit needs to be detailed. I have always been a huge fan of including lots of footnotes on the Affidavit to explain how my client came up with certain expenses- not only so if the other attorney asks my client how she came up with that number all my client has to do is read the footnote, but also so that hat information is right there for the judge to see. This is especially important if a certain expenses seem unsually high or off. For example, if you drive an old car that requires lots of maintenance and has poor gas mileage, you want to explain why those numbers are high.
Don't focus on the marital misconduct; focus on the numbers. In order to even be entitled to alimony, you must first establish that there is a dependent spouse and a supporting spouse. How do you do this- present both parties' Financial Affidavits, tax returns during the marriage, and social security earnings statements. It is only after you establish that you have a supporting spouse and a dependent spouse to you even get to looking at the factors that relate to the amount and duration of alimony, one of which is marital misconduct. Furthermore, marital miscsonduct is only one of 16 statutory factors for the judge to consider in determining alimony. Other factors include the length of the marriage, the ages and physical/mental condtions of both parties, and the contribution of a spouse as homemaker, among others. In my experience and opinion, judges get tired of their courtrooms turning into Judge Judy episodes where the parties criticize each other for everything wrong that happened during the marriage. This is not to make light of cases where there has been serious marital misconduct or domestic violence, however, but the bottom line is it's all about the numbers..