What Each Spouse Actually Needs

Do you know how much money do you need in order to live? How much your spouse requires? The combined amount required may exceed the total available. Trying to run two households on the income previously needed for one is the major problem in many divorces.

Let’s start with your spouse’s alleged needs. You have your spouse’s sworn income and expense information from Chapter Eight, if you took the temporary support issue to court. You also have additional and supporting information from your discovery.

Focus on finding sizeable amounts of money spent or saved when going over your spouse’s expenses. Your attorney is likely to have a better idea of the expenses the court will find questionable. You will know what looks suspicious based upon past household budgets.

If you can reduce your spouse’s needs in the eyes of the court you will also increase the amount of support that your spouse is capable of paying. This is your opportunity to argue that your spouse should pay the additional support that you need, because of your spouse’s (below average) expenses. However, don’t nitpick. Judges are displeased with lengthy questioning of the grocery or clothing expenses unless the numbers are way out of line. Zero-in on items for which your spouse is spending "twice what the two of you spent." Follow up when it appears that your spouse is pumping up his or her expenses to build an enhanced life style at a time when there literally is not enough money to go around.

This phase of preparation is detail oriented, not exciting. Make it a quest. Look for non-cash deductions for depreciation if your spouse is a sole proprietor of a business. Depreciation allowances are amounts not actually paid, but recognized accounting entries also accepted for income tax purposes.

Are automobile expenses listed in full, with no mention these are employer- reimbursed? Watch for double entries made for the same item, such as medical insurance being deducted from income but also added to expenses.

Let’s look at your needs. Think of this as a sales pitch. Document every special need. Are you stuck with the old car that always needs work, but can’t afford a new one? Bring in the bills, with a single page summary on the top of the stack. Go right on down the line. Do you need special clothes for your work? Are there unusual medical expenses? Is your insurance unusually high because of an accident? Are your utility bills high because the children are prone to colds and the doctor said to keep the heat up or they’d be sick all winter? List payments to creditors that you are making on debts incurred before separation, using the table prepared in Chapter Seven, for which you are responsible. Add the attorney’s fees you’ll be paying monthly if the court doesn’t award you your legal expenses.

You are not entitled to enhance your needs by voluntarily moving to more expensive housing or purchasing a new car merely because you would like to have it or even believe that you need it. Courts will shift their attention from your actual needs to your reasonable needs if this is detected.

Remember the COBRA and conversion medical insurance policies we discussed in Chapter Seven. If you are the dependent spouse who will be uninsured because of the divorce, have the information necessary to document your new health insurance expenses. Whatever policy you will use, this is an increased expense that increases your need. On the other hand, you’ll send a formal notice to each insurance company after judgment is entered if any policies of life, health or disability insurance are to be maintained for your benefit by your spouse.

The need for support is seldom considered independently. Why not? The answer is because ability to pay ordinarily acts as the limitation on the amount of support. Fifty percent of a payor’s net income is the largest percentage upheld for child and spousal support, and then usually only in an aggravated case. Forty percent is a common maximum. Therefore, the process is typically one of showing special needs, which the court adds in whole or in part to the sum called for by the support schedules. You don’t care about the path as long as your valid needs are met.