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Don't make these mistakes when negotiating alimony

It's difficult to negotiate a divorce with a clear head, but that's essential when it comes to one area: your alimony payments.

If you expect to pay alimony to your ex-spouse, you need to pay attention to these tips for negotiation from the experts:

1. Don't try to subvert the process.

Some people think it's a good idea to hide their assets or spend their money in order to avoid paying alimony. That's bound to backfire. If you spend all your cash, you're still going to be stuck paying alimony out of what you have coming in -- so that will hurt worse in the end. If you hide your assets, you risk losing whatever you're trying to keep as a penalty.

2. Get some outside help.

Aside from your attorney, consider involving a vocational expert and an accountant in your case. A vocational expert can give the court a fair assessment of what your spouse could earn if he or she were to re-enter the workforce. That could lower your alimony significantly. An accountant can help evaluate your tax liabilities and understand how alimony will affect your bottom line.

3. Think twice about lump-sum payments.

It can sound alluring to pay off your alimony in one fell swoop. It allows for a clean break. However, that may be a mistake. Paying over time affords you the opportunity to end the payments early -- at a substantial savings -- if your ex-spouse married, moves in with someone, or gets a job.

4. Be clear about the terms of payment.

Make sure that you negotiate an alimony agreement with clear terms -- especially when it comes to termination. Language that specifically allows you to terminate the payments if your ex-spouse cohabitates with another person is advisable -- as opposed to language that only allows you to stop payments if he or she remarries. Many people fail to include this clause and end up regretting it later.

Spousal support negotiations take some time to do properly. However, a careful process will serve your interests far better than any emotional decisions you might make.

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