Herding the Alimony Cat


I’m male, the income providing spouse (i.e., my wife has a part time job but has been dependent on me for income). Married 11 years, 2 dependent kids…no infidelity or similar to consider. My wife will be the primary physical custodian of the kids going forward. I met with a lawyer for an initial consultation who told me that “all situations are different” and that “there is no hard and fast rule”, but as a general thumbrule I could expect to pay approximately 50% of my income in child support and alimony (at least for the first 5.5 years until alimony runs off).

First question: is that 50% of income thumbrule a reasonable thumbrule in your opinion?

Second question: if it is a reasonable assumption, is the thumbrule calculated based on gross earnings or earnings net of taxes?

Third question: I’ll begin negotiating with my wife in the next week or so, and also want to begin to frame my budget for my life post-separation (i.e., how much home/condo can I afford, etc.). I make about $12K per month gross/$8K net of taxes including self employment taxes, she makes about $2.5K per month gross. We ran the child support calculator and it came up that I will pay her $1.7K per month. Is it reasonable using the thumbrule to expect to be paying my spouse $2.3K per month in alimony ($1.7K CS + $2.3K AL =$4.0K or 50% of $8K monthly earnings net of tax)? I’m also going to be paying for the kids’ health and dental, which is about $0.3K per month, but didn’t include that in this thumbrule calculation since the child support calculator gave me credit for the insurance payments.

Fourth question: What is the regulatorily mandated child support payment supposed to cover? Should we generally expect to share expenses on a weighted income basis for the children going forward for non-basic expenses such sports, activities, camps, etc.?

I really appreciate this forum…thanks for your thoughts.


There is no real “rule of thumb” with respect to alimony. It’s not the same, where it’s calculated from a formula like child support is. So, I cannot give you a clear answer on that issue. I can say that alimony is based on the reasonable demonstrated needs of the dependent spouse, and the ability of the supporting spouse to pay.

Child support is intended to cover the payor’s share of the child’s reasonable needs, including sports and activities, though a court can, and sometimes will (depending on the individual circumstances) order that the paryor contribute to those expenses separately, over and above the amount of child support.

Also, gross income is what the court will use.