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One of the most difficult aspects of negotiating a legal separation is deciding on an appropriate amount of spousal support. This is an incredibly stressful negotiation for both spouses, regardless of whether you will be paying support or receiving support.

So before you get involved in this negotiation, it is important that you have a firm understanding of what spousal support is in North Carolina, how it works, and what a realistic payment range would be in your case.

Here are six tips that will help you to negotiate the best possible support payment you can given your situation.

  1. Know your numbers. You need to have a firm understanding of the income and expenses for both you and your spouse. For the expenses, you should be able to estimate what these will look like after you separate. Do you know what it will cost each of you to run a household after you separate? Do you know what debt payments you will be responsible for? How much discretionary spending does your household do on a monthly basis? You need to know all of these numbers inside and out.
  2. Use tools. There are a number of online tools available to assist you in determining what your budget should look like. These tools include youneedabudget.com, mint.com and more. Here is a great article from Nerdwallet that reviews some of the top budgeting apps on the market currently. You can use one of these tools to start tracking your spending and figure out what a realistic budget is for you. In addition, you can use the financial workbook that we have developed for our premium members. It includes an alimony calculator that will give you a range of values for your situation as well as tell you how many months you should realistically expect to pay or receive alimony.
  3. Get realistic. Ok, so you have figured out the numbers. Will each of you have a surplus of cash at the end of the month or a deficit? If both of you have a surplus then chances are there is no need for spousal support. If one of you has a surplus and the other has a deficit, is the surplus big enough to cover the deficit? If not, you may need to go back and take a closer look at your numbers to figure out where each of you can cut expenses.
  4. Use open-ended calibrated questions. Discussions about spousal support can get heated, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is important that you approach this collaboratively with your spouse. There will need to be some problem solving. Ask open ended questions that begin with “what” or “how”, such as “what does spousal support look like for you” or “how am I supposed to do that?”
  5. Mirror and empathize with your Spouse. Let them know that you appreciate their willingness to work with you to find a number that will work for your both. When talking through the issue, repeat back the last part of their sentences to show you are listening to them. Make sure to compliment them when they give you an offer and then let them down easy. “Your offer is very generous. But unfortunately, that just won’t work for me.”
  6. Recognize your limitations. Negotiating post separation support is incredibly difficult. If you are not a skilled negotiator, or historically you have lost a lot of fights with your spouse that revolved around money, then you may be at a disadvantage attempting to negotiate this payment without legal help. Feel free to schedule a 15 minute strategy call with us to determine whether or not you are capable of handling this on your own or whether you might want to hire us in some capacity to help you.