Alimony- A two-part series on maximizing and minimizing spousal support


Some parties to a divorce may think the only way to get a generous alimony award is to hire an “all holds barred” female lawyer to go into court and fight for them. The higher income earner may think going into mediation will force them into paying more than they want to pay and they may want to hire a “men’s rights” attorney. As a result, alimony claims become the most expensive issue to litigate. When I was litigating, an alimony case would easily cost each side in excess of $20,000-$30,000. In addition to being the costliest, alimony cases are also the most contentious, leaving each side detesting each other in the end.

What if you could resolve an alimony case for less money and with less acrimony while still preserving your rights, whichever side of the argument you may be on. In this blog, you will learn everything you need to know about maximizing your spousal support award.

New Mexico really only has two laws when it comes to alimony. If there been a 20-year marriage and is there ability to pay on one side and need on the other? If these questions can be answered affirmatively, then alimony will be awarded in some amount and for some duration.

How to maximize your spousal support award. First, prepare your post-divorce budget for the mediation. It can be hard to know exactly what your expenses will have but you should be able to estimate them. Look at the price of apartments or calculate the cost of your mortgage payment. Research health insurance, utility costs, day care. Or more simply, use generalities.

Secondly, bring your current budget. When you and your spouse resided together, you had more disposable income and therefore, likely higher monthly expenses. You may have been accustomed to spending $500 per month on clothing, and $1,000 per month on groceries. You don’t want to ignore the lifestyle you had become accustomed to, therefore, draft a budget based on current bank and credit card statements. Your former spouse is not likely to agree to this budget. But nevertheless, aim high, but within reason.

Thirdly, calculate spousal support by using the New Mexico Alimony Guidelines. Here is the formula:

30% of payor’s income


50% of payee’s income. Then reduce the amount 10% to 25% depending upon the amount of the parties’ combined income.

Up to $90,000 combined income, reduce by 10%

$90,001 to $149,999 combined income, reduce by 15%

$150,000 to $199,999 combined income, reduce by 20%

Over $200,000 combined income, reduce by 25%

If the payor is also paying child support, then the following formula is used:

28% of payor’s income


58% of payee’s income. Then reduce the amount in accordance with the formula above.

The amount of your spousal support should be some combination of these three amounts, your current budget, your post-divorce budget and the alimony guidelines, presuming your spouse has the ability to pay.

If you do receive alimony, can long can you expect it to last? If you were married for less than five years, you should not expect any spousal support. A five to ten year marriage can be difficult to obtain spousal support. A 10-20 year marriage should trigger a spousal support payment if certain factors are met. A marriage of longer than 20 years will guarantee spousal support if there is a discrepancy of incomes. Here are the spousal support factors.

(1) the age and health of and the means of support for the respective spouses;

(2) the current and future earnings and the earning capacity of the respective spouses;

(3) the good-faith efforts of the respective spouses to maintain employment or to become self-supporting;

(4) the reasonable needs of the respective spouses, including:

(a) the standard of living of the respective spouses during the term of the marriage;

(b) the maintenance of medical insurance for the respective spouses;

(5) the duration of the marriage;

(6) the amount of the property awarded or confirmed to the respective spouses;

(7) the type and nature of the respective spouses' assets; provided that potential proceeds from the sale of property by either spouse shall not be considered by the court, unless required by exceptional circumstances and the need to be fair to the parties;

(8) the type and nature of the respective spouses' liabilities;

(9) income produced by property owned by the respective spouses; and

(10) agreements entered into by the spouses in contemplation of the dissolution of marriage or legal separation

The longer the marriage, the more likely the alimony if the factors above are met. There must be enough discrepancy of income to generate a payment using the formula above and alimony might be paid for one-third to half the length of the marriage.

A 15-20 year marriage is again more likely to generate spousal support than the shorter marriage, depending on the circumstances of each case and the duration might be one-third to half the length of the marriage.

Finally, in making your request for spousal support, you must understand modifiable versus non-modifiable alimony which will be discussed in April’s blog.