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Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 3910
Experience:  I have assisted many customers and clients with their family law questions and I'm experienced in family law litigation.
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Am I permitted to provide a set of facts and ask what a potential

Resolved Question:

Am I permitted to provide a set of facts and ask what a potential range of alimony might be or is that too close to providing legal advice which I recognize this site doesn't do? Thanks.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Chris T., JD replied 1 year ago.

texlawyer :

Good evening. No, that won't be an issue. Keep in mind, however, that anything an expert on JA could tell you is just an estimate.

texlawyer :

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that actually bases their alimony on a formula.

Customer:

Actually, PA uses a formula for spousal support, but no longer uses it for alimony.

texlawyer :

As a basis for alimony, the court will start with 40% of the difference between the two spouses' income. It is 30% of the income minus child support if there are children involved.

texlawyer :

I'm sorry, I thought you were asking about spousal support.

Customer:

Can I run the facts by you now?

texlawyer :

Alimony is calculated based on a number of factors, and the judge is given very wide discretion. Yes, you can run them by me.

texlawyer :

Alimony is much harder to predict than spousal support. I'd be glad to give my estimate, but I just wanted to make sure you were aware.

Customer:

Thanks for the heads up. Yes, I'm definitely aware of that, but still curious as to someone's take.

texlawyer :

Sure. Go ahead.

Customer:

Facts: H and W, both attorneys, were married for 26 years. 2 children - both over 21. In year 24 of marriage, W began having mental health issues which ultimately led to the deterioration of the marriage. After date of separation, W took a 6 month medical leave of absence during which she was hospitalized. She returned to work but was laid off several months later due to budgetary problems. Meanwhile, W was awarded Soc Security Disability on first application. more to come

Customer:

H earns $145,000; W is receiving $30,000 in SSDI. Parties' assets are essentially remaining proceeds from sale of house and ira/pensions. W's pension is approx. twice as large as H's. W is 58 1/2 and her employment prospects are not great. She tried for several years to get a job (when unhappy at prior job) with no success. She's now several years older, out of the workforce for 2 years, and has no book of business.

Customer:

Need any other information?

texlawyer :

No, that should be enough. Let me look at a few things. It should only be a minute.

Customer:

W's SSD awarded will probably be evaluated within a year, and W doesn't know how that will come out, so no idea if she will still get the $30k. Also, W's medical expenses are large --- $12,000 year health insurance premiums, $1,000 yr/meds; $5,000/yr. mental health care not covered by insurance; deductibles, etc. such that W's medical related expenses are approx. $23,000/yr.

texlawyer :

Was their any misconduct by either H or W that led to the divorce?

Customer:

Yes. Misconduct by wife which expert will testify was attributable to the mental health problems.

Customer:

H will definitely be bringing that up. Parties are negotiating and both have that factor in mind.

texlawyer :

As I'm sure you are aware, there's lots going on here that cuts in both directions in regard to the 17 alimony factors. This is a fairly complex one.

texlawyer :

Have any offers been made?

Customer:

We're just getting started in the negotiations, so not really. (Both H and W are represented by family lawyers.) Per the lawyers: H recognizes that he's looking at long term alimony (if he doesn't prevail because of abuse). He wants one way modifiable alimony, so that if W gets better and gets a job, his alimony can be decreased, but he doesn't want W to be able to modify. So, if she loses social security, she will essentially have no income because her SSDI is almost entirely eaten up by medical expenses. more to come...

Customer:

W opposes the one way modification because it's unlikely that a mental health disability will continue indefinitely (or at least she certainly hopes that's the case).

Customer:

Would 40% of the difference between H's $145k and W's $30k SSD sound high, low, or in the ballpark?

Customer:

Oops - the 145 is gross. I meant 40% of the difference between H's net (maybe around 100K) and W's 30k of SSDI

texlawyer :

I think the alimony could be fairly high, especially if it is modifiable or has a definite termination date. I think 40% is high, considering it could be for years or even decades. I would expect somewhere in the 25-33% range. I don't think there is anything improper with starting for 40%, but I wouldn't expect to get it.

Customer:

Does tax factor into this at all? In other words - the fact that alimony is deductible and SSDI will be taxed?

texlawyer :

Yes.


(15) The Federal, State and local tax ramifications of the alimony award.

Customer:

I guess I meant when you said 25-33 is the likely range, is that allowing for what the tax effect would be, in that 25% isn't really 25%. Do you understand what I'm trying to ask. I'm not being very clear,

texlawyer :

Oh, I'm sorry, yes, that does include that factor.

texlawyer :

Again, that's just my ballpark, so take that for what it's worth.

Customer:

A couple of other questions. 1) how heavily is abuse weighted if judge rejects expert's testimony; 2) are one-way modifiable alimony order common; 3) if W lost SSD benefit tomorrow, could you give a guesstimate range.

Customer:

And yes - I recognize it's just your ballpark, and that that and $1 will get me a cup of coffee. :)

texlawyer :

1) it depends on the judge, but in my experience, abuse can be a major factor. Judges don't like awarding abuses, and spousal abuse is taken more and more seriously.

texlawyer :

2) Not in my experience.

texlawyer :

But, they do come up from time to time. It's just one more negotiation tool.

texlawyer :

3) I think the percentage would stay the same, or possibly go up a few points, but, obviously, if W had no income, that would change the difference between the two incomes.

Customer:

Would I be correct that in this case where W's SSD could be cut off at any time, agreeing to a one way modifiable - only in H's favor - would make no sense.

texlawyer :

It is only in H's favor, but if W agrees to it, she should ask for more initially, since it can only go down for her.

Customer:

And one last question --- what sorts of things constitute the abuse that is typically seen, if there's such a thing as typical abuse. Any sense what impact expert witness testimony would have --- in other words - psychiatrist testifies that condition X is what cause conduct Y (the abuse).

texlawyer :

Without knowing what the expert will say, it is hard for me to judge that, but anything to minimize the abuse would be a positive for W. The judge doesn't have to either accept or reject the expert altogether. In other words, it will likely cut in her favor to some degree. The credibility of the expert and his opinion will determine what degree that is.

texlawyer :

As far as what is typical abuse, it is generally either physical abuse or emotional/verbal abuse.

texlawyer :

It is hard to say what's "typical" within that.

Customer:

Got it. Very well credentialed treating psychiatrist at top national facility.

Customer:

OK. Thanks for letting me bounce all of this off of you.

texlawyer :

Glad to help!

Customer:

Have a good night.

Chris T., JD, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 3910
Experience: I have assisted many customers and clients with their family law questions and I'm experienced in family law litigation.
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Chris T., JD
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I have assisted many customers and clients with their family law questions and I'm experienced in family law litigation.