Am I Entitled to Alimony if my Start-up Hasn’t Taken Off Yet?

Lee Rosen, retired divorce attorney and founder of the Rosen Law Firm, discusses receiving alimony as a start-up owner.

Could I be entitled to alimony if my start-up can’t afford the payment yet? I’m Lee Rosen.

You’ve started a business; it’s going well; you’ve got product development happening, or you’re figuring out the services you could offer, you’re building up a customer base. Things are beginning to happen and you can tell that this business is going to work out. Realistically however, nothing happens over night. It can take months, or years to get a business to the point where you’re earning a substantial income and building substantial value in the form of an asset.

During that period, can you be entitled to alimony? Well, it’s an interesting question and I will tell you we deal with it in some frequency. Let’s say you’ve got a spouse that is earning a substantial income from the point, the two of you agreed that your spouse would do that, while you built the business, and so you’re off an running. Could you get money from the other spouse as you continue to build the business even after you’ve separated? Well, arguably yes, although I want to be straight forward with you, this can be a very tricky scenario. In order to be entitled to alimony, you must be financially dependent, that means you make less, your spouse must be the supporting spouse, that means they make more, and you must demonstrate financial need.

Now what you’re going to say is hey we’ve made this investment, for it to pay off, I’ve got to stick with it, the other spouse needs to pay me so I can keep going; they need to give me the alimony. What they’re going to say is quite simply, and it’s a three word response; get a job. That’s going to be their position, so you can see where the conflict comes from. Are you going to get alimony? It becomes not only a legally difficult question, but emotionally. Boy, this can become World War III.

There is no straight forward answer to this question. It becomes very difficult, very complicated and it is one of those issues that lands us in a court room in many instances. People just have a tough time agreeing on whether or not support should be paid; and if we end up in court, it can get messy. Court is required to consider a whole bunch of factors; the education of the parties, the earnings of the parties, the assets and liabilities of the parties, the history of the relationship, contributions to education, that sort of thing. All of the financial information will be evaluated, all of the understandings and agreements between the parties will be evaluated and it’s easy for you to imagine how this just becomes a very hot button, very emotional, very difficult issue.

In the right set of circumstances, yes, alimony will be paid as we continue with the start up of the business. But it never comes easily, it rarely comes without a fight, and it’s 1 of those things that even if you’re entitled to it, you don’t want to count on it, because it’s not something that is absolutely guaranteed to happen.

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