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Spousal Maintenance

MONICA DONALDSON STEWART: Hi, I’m Monica Donaldson Stewart and I’m a family law attorney practicing in Chandler, Arizona.

MICHAEL JUILFS: And I’m Michael Juilfs and I’m a certified financial planner and certified divorce financial analyst, and my practice is in Scottsdale.

MONICA DONALDSON STEWART: Mike, one of the issues that we deal with a lot in divorces is spousal maintenance. Some people call it spousal support or alimony. And I found that in traditional divorces, it can be a really polarizing issue where one person is trying to receive the most they can get and the other person is trying to pay the least that they can pay. But in a collaborative divorce, it’s handled a little bit differently. I think there’s a lot of flexibility between the spouses.

As a neutral financial professional, what is your role in helping the spouses arrive at an agreement regarding spousal maintenance?

MICHAEL JUILFS: Well, typically, most litigated divorces focus on division of assets. But the reality is that we all live on cash flow. We need to be able to pay our bills at the end of the month. And so one of the things that I help clients with is determining: What are my expenses going to be post-divorce? Because housing situations may change, parenting time is going to be different, things like that.

So it’s important that both parties understand what are my expenses going to be. If you’re like most of us, when we were married we tended to spend most of our income. Now we’re supporting two households, so that’s going to change as well. So there’s going to be some important decisions that need to be made with regard to housing and things like that that the more information that each party has, the better decisions they’re going to be able to make. Because ultimately, any settlement you reach has to work for both parties.

MONICA DONALDSON STEWART: And do you find that when both of the spouses are presented with information regarding their respective incomes and household expenses, it results in the opportunity for them to have a serious and realistic conversation about what their future needs to look like?

MICHAEL JUILFS: And I think what you said that’s most important is “realistic.” Because being able to see things kind of from your partner’s perspective helps you understand the situation they’re going to be in so that you can more effectively reach a compromise.