Alimony’s a tough deal in divorce. Because divorce is such a financial train wreck, there’s often not much money to go around.

I don’t say this to imply you won’t get alimony, especially if you’ve been married for more than four year. I say it because getting alimony takes work and requires laying the proper foundation.

With that in mind, here are five ways to maximize your chance at getting alimony (for a primer regarding how Utah courts calculate alimony, click here):

  1. Put together an accurate accounting of your monthly expenses both now and during your marriage.

Alimony is really a function of two things: length of the marriage and need for support. To maximize your chance to receive alimony, you need to establish your lifestyle during your marriage (i.e., how much you spent on average per month when you were together as a married couple). You also need to establish what your monthly need is right now.

Establishing these two things will require you to gather bills and bank statements and work the numbers. Honestly, there’s no substitute for the work that goes in to this. If you can’t prove what you spent and what your spending, the court is much less likely to award alimony.

  1. Get an accurate assessment of all income sources (both yours and your spouse’s).

If #1 was about establishing need for alimony, #2 here is about establishing incomes and ability to pay alimony. If there isn’t enough income to pay alimony, it’s pretty unlikely a court will award alimony. This mean you need to get a good handle on what you make and what your spouse makes. Tax returns are good for this, as are W2s and profit and loss statements (if you or your spouse own a company). Find these documents and make copies of them (they have a tendency to “disappear” when divorce cases start).

  1. Establish your lack of work history/inability to work.

If you’ve been a stay-at-home mom taking care of your kids for years, or your unable to work due to a disability, you’ll need to prove that. Now, when it comes to being a stay-at-home mom, that’s pretty easy to prove (you testify to it). Disability is a bit harder. You have to get medical records and disability findings and give those to the court.

  1. Don’t cohabitate or remarry.

Alimony ends on cohabitation or remarriage. So, if you want to maximize alimony, don’t cohabitate or remarry. (Cohabitation is, more or less, living with someone as if you were married and having sex with that person. It’s actually more complicated than that, but you get the gist.)

Now, this is Utah and people get remarried, so this advice isn’t all that practical, but it does have the virtue of being true.

  1. Hire a good divorce attorney.

If you’re entitled to alimony and you want to maximize the amount you receive, hire a good divorce attorney. Next to child custody and parent-time, alimony is the most difficult and emotional issue in divorce. You’ll want someone there with you who knows the ins-and-outs of alimony to help you maximize the amount you receive. There is no substitute for a professional.

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