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How Alimony Sets You Up To Fail (From the Heart)

Women who depend on alimony are setting themselves up to fail.

Many women (maybe even most women) are financially inferior to their husbands. It’s not right, it’s not fair, and it’s not politically correct for me to say, but it is true. These women go into divorce looking for one thing: alimony.

Because the reason for the divorce is inevitably his fault. He owes it to you, right? You sacrificed the best years of your life for him only to be treated the way he has treated you, so he deserves to pay. He cannot expect you to go from being financially dependent to supporting yourself, so because you need it, he has to pay.

Here’s the problem: Women who depend on alimony are setting themselves up to fail.

No, I do not have any psychological studies to back me up on that claim. I do not even have formal statistics. What I have is 800+ clients under my belt as a family law attorney who works primarily with women, and I have noticed this trend time and time again. The women who come into my office desperate for their now or soon-to-be ex-spouse to continue supporting them financially continue to fail, both in court and in life.

Let me break it down for you

For whatever reason, your marriage is not working, and it is not going to make you happy for the rest of your life. The solution is that your partnership needs to end. That means that all the things you did as partners needs to stop and you need to design a new life. Maybe you will decide to stay single, or maybe you already have a new relationship waiting for you. Either way, your marriage, and your connection to your current spouse, needs to end. Chances are that you have already decided that on your own, and that is why you want to get divorced.

When severing that connection, you demand alimony. Not just what the court considers to be reasonable, but enough to pay your rent and other necessary expenses for a prolonged period of time. Without that money, you have no other way to make ends meet.

In severing the marital connection that is holding you back, you are creating a powerful financial dependence that makes you inferior in the relationship you are trying to leave. For many women, this can be just as bad, if not worse, than still being married.

Are you getting divorced to break free from a controlling spouse?
Just imagine the field day they can have with sending your payments late, sending only partial payments, or not sending payments at all. You may have legal recourse, but that will take time (and usually money) to initiate. In the meantime, you are the one left with unmet needs.

If you end up facing an eviction, collection agencies, or bankruptcy because you cannot pay your bills, that will be on your record, not on his.

Let me tell you the real root reason I think alimony sets you up to fail: It keeps you in a mindset of depending and relying on others instead of allowing you to grow into a strong, independent, self-sufficient woman after your divorce.

Alimony is not justice

Alimony certainly has a purpose. When two people with significant discrepancies in their incomes get divorced, alimony is meant to help ease the shift in economic disparities between the two. It is there to help you get on your feet and figure out a plan during the major life transition. That means that it does not last for very long and does not pay very much. It is there to soften the blow, and that’s all.

So many women I have met try to turn it into an issue of justice. They think he has to pay because of how rude, awful, and inconsiderate he is. The truth is, no amount of money is ever going to make you feel compensated for the emotional pain you have endured. If that is what you are expecting, then you will be sorely disappointed.

Even if you get an award of alimony in your divorce, I just described above some of the ways I have seen it used to exercise power and control over someone. If anything, this may fuel the injustice you feel rather than alleviating it.

How to Succeed

Let me be perfectly clear: I am not telling you to forego alimony in your divorce.

If you are entitled to it, and if you need it, then you should absolutely talk with your lawyer about it.

What I am saying is this: Do not rely on alimony to sustain your life after divorce.

Here is what I tell my clients who want to achieve success after divorce:

  • Budget as though he will not pay. When figuring out your post-divorce budget, do not factor in your alimony payments. Come up with a plan to make your expenses without that payment. That way if it does not come, you are no worse for the wear. If it does come, then you can put it into savings, use it to pay down a debt, or spend it on something extra. Either way, you are not dependent on it for your basic needs.
  • Plan for self-sufficiency. What are you going to do to meet your long-term income goals? Are you going back to school to start a new career? Are you going to start a business and be your own boss? Whatever it is, plan to be self-sufficient, without relying on alimony payments or any other financial support from anyone. This may be incredibly hard and may even seem impossible, but with the right attitude, it can be done.
  • Ask for the right kind of help. If you have a wealthy friend or family member, you can choose to approach them for help in one of two ways. You can ask them for money when you need help, or you can ask them how they achieved their wealth and if they can mentor you to achieve a similar result. One of these options puts strain on the relationship and only offers a temporary solution while the other builds long-term strength and success. Which will you choose?

Let me leave you with one last tidbit.

If you are going through a divorce, then you already know someone who has achieved a state of mind that generates success: your lawyer. Whether they work for a large firm or started their own, your lawyer has probably been through the financial ups and downs that come with getting to where they are now. If you are one of my clients, then helping you be successful is quite literally the reason I am here. I already know all of your personal business, too. I will happily give you my advice if you ask, and I will even turn off the time clock while we talk about it.

The Lien Law Firm’s “From the Heart” blog series focuses on our lawyer’s true feelings about family law issues based on personal experience and perception. You can read more at www.lienlawfirm.com. Want to talk to a lawyer who gets that family court is an emotional place? Call 314-722-8557 to speak with a friendly Missouri lawyer and get honest answers to your unique questions.