This depends entirely on how averse to risk you are. Spousal support, when added up, will often exceed the amount being offered as an up-front settlement to “buy-off” spousal support. This is especially true if spousal support is reviewable. However, there are many more risks associated with receiving spousal support. For example, you may get remarried, at which point spousal support will terminate or the payor of support may lose his or her job and seek a modification or termination of the support amount. Similar types of risk are associated with taking a part of a pension. While pension money does grow tax-free, it can not be accessed without negative tax consequences for many years. The old adage, “One in the hand is worth more than two in the bush,” applies to this type of decision. If you are comfortable with risk, then agreeing to spousal support may be the appropriate decision. If you are less comfortable with risk, then taking a marital asset, such as the house, might be the appropriate choice. You should ask your financial professional about the tax consequences of taking one asset over another before making your final decision.
Jeffrey W. Brend is a CPA and family-law attorney practicing with Chicago law firm Levin & Brend, P.C. He is the only person in the country affiliated with both the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the American Society of Appraisers.