Alimony is often the most contentious issue in divorce. As an attorney and mediator with almost 25 years of experience I am dedicated to the peaceful resolution of divorce. I’m never shocked when a mediation which was proceeding smoothly and calmly erupts into contentiousness and animosity when the issue of alimony arises.
In this issue, I’ll talk about the emotional impact of alimony in divorce mediation.
Top 5 Emotions Related To Alimony
#4 & 5: “Resentment” & “Unfairness”
Whenever I bring up the topic of alimony with the couple that I am working with as divorce mediator, I instinctively watch both spouses body-language and facial expressions. In almost all cases, the spouse who may end-up paying alimony has a restricted, serious and annoyed look on their face. Despite time thinking about and preparing for the mediation and the ultimate divorce, the act of hearing their spouse say that they want to receive money every month after the divorce often has the biggest impact on them throughout the entire process.
It is easy to understand how resentment can be felt by someone who is about to be divorced from their spouse, but will end up paying money to their ex-spouse for well after the divorce is final. This resentment often stems from a sense that the process is unfair. I have heard on many occasions the “paying” spouse ask: “I don’t understand why I need to pay for him/her monthly expenses after we’re divorcing… especially when he/she asked for the divorce.”
This question sums up the emotional reaction of resentment as the “paying” spouse feels stuck, required or forced to pay alimony when they either don’t think its necessary or the amount is perceived to be excessive and unfair.
#3: “Humiliation” & “Embarrassment”
We tend to think of the “paying” spouse’s emotions when we talk about reactions to alimony. However, the “payee” spouse also feels a range of emotions concerning the asking for and receipt of alimony payments from their ex-spouse. Merriam-Webster defines the word humiliate as “to reduce (someone) to a lower position in one’s own eyes or others’ eyes : to make (someone) ashamed or embarrassed.”
What is it like for a 48-year old women who has given-up a promising career to raise the couple’s children, to face the prospect of living on her own? To find a job for the first time in 20 years? To try and support herself on one income?
What is it like for a 35-year old man to plan for his future when his ex-wife was the main breadwinner in the family? To go back to school to earn his college degree? To earn less than his peers?
These are two scenarios wherein one spouse suddenly finds themself in a position they didn’t or couldn’t imagine even a few years prior.
Spouses often get very emotional and begin to cry when talking about their future plans and how they now find themself in a position of uncertainty about supporting themselves in the lifestyle they were accustomed to while married. The emotions of embarrassment and humiliation are often triggered by this discussion.
The entire process of divorce causes most spouses to begin feeling and experiencing fear. What will it be like to live alone for the first time in years? How will I survive and support oneself? Am I ready to assume the majority of parenting tasks? Questions like these invariably causes fear in both partners.
Alimony is unique in its ability to ferment fear in both the paying and receiving spouse. Both spouses worry about finances. They ask themselves how they will manage day-to-day needs. The primitive emotion of fear can result in either spouse shutting down or wanting to escape.
My training in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy has sensitized me my client’s emotional needs and reactions. I tell spouses that each will invariably experience emotions during the divorce process. I reassure them that it’s okay to feel whatever it is they are experiencing. Fear is a significant but natural reaction to the alimony discussion.
#1: “Frustration” & “Confusion”
Couple’s choose to work with me as their mediator with the goal of obtaining a PeacefulSplit® to their divorce. They both want to lower stress and benefit themselves and their children. Nonethless, it’s likely they will feel uncertainty or insecurity about various aspects of the divorce process. They will worry about their children’s well-being and how they will navigate life’s new challenges. These unknowns result in varying degrees of frustration and confusion.
Alimony only adds to these feelings. Unlike child-support – which is based upon a mathematical formula – alimony has no such easy calculation. There are varying types of alimony to explore. Agreements about future contingencies. The parties need to discuss past and future life-styles, and a host of other related questions. In practice, there are more unknowns than knows.
So Many Possibilities and Options
There are two big issues relating to alimony which cause frustration and confusion. First is trying to determine if alimony will be permanent or durational. Second is planning for contingencies, such as retirement, loss of employment, illness, or remarriage.
When a person feels the emotions of frustration and confusion, they often can become anxious. This anxiety can lead spouses to become annoyed, agitated, upset, irritable, sad, or angry. As a trained and experienced attorney and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator who is dedicated to helping couples in South Florida achieve a negotiated and amicable divorce through a PeacefulSplit® Divorce Mediation, I spend as much time as needed for each spouse to lower their anxiety levels, reduce their emotional reactivity to the divorce, and focus on creating a settlement agreement that is fair and equitable to both spouses.
Here at PeacefulSplit® Mediation, our sole mission is guide, comfort, and assist you and your spouse or partner so that you can obtain a peaceful divorce. Most importantly, we never judge you based upon your values, beliefs, culture, ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation.
If you and your spouse are ready for a PeacefulSplit® Mediation, or are just contemplating divorce, I am here to help by answering all of your questions and explaining to the both of you the benefits of a PeacefulSplit® Mediation. Both parties are sometimes on the same page. Other times there are big difference. I am available to help you under either scenario.
If you are ready to divorce, want to avoid a financially and emotionally draining legal battle, and desire an economical “PeacefulSplit® Mediation” or just want more information about the divorce mediation process, then Attorney and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, Eric B. Epstein, Esq., is ready to assist you. Call me at 954-272-8292.