Friday, April 2, 2010

What Divorce Law is Doing to Marriage Part 36

More from the words of Jed Abraham

The law will allow you a modification of alimony in the event of a significant change in your circumstances. If you involuntarily lose your job and you have few assets to draw from, that’s a significant change in your circumstances. If you involuntarily lose your job and you have few assets to draw from, that’s a significant change in your circumstances. You can then ask the court to modify downward the amount you have to pay. But you’d better hurry. The court can modify alimony only as to prospective payments, only as to amounts owed after the date of your filing for modification. Past-owed amounts will become “vested” and the court cannot modify them retroactively. Even if you are unemployed and penniless, you will still have to come up with the money.

Since this divorce, it will hit you just when the rest of your life is also in transition. Your kids are teenagers and can pretty much take care of themselves, but your wife is not yet able to earn enough on her own to approximate the marital standard. You’ve been dreaming for some time about starting your own business. If you wait much longer, your opportunity will pass. If you were still living with your wife and kids, you’d tighten your belt, and they’d scrimp along with you. Maybe your wife would go to work to make up the difference. Maybe your kids would work after school and during the summer. But now that you’re divorced, they needn’t sacrifice for your ambitions and dreams. They only need to share them with you if you succeed.

The court may tell you that your change-of-life crisis is not a significant change in your circumstances. It’s something you generated yourself. It’s just too handy a happening to get you out of paying alimony. The court won’t reduce your alimony obligations and compel your ex and kids to scrimp along with you to satisfy your selfish desire for a new career. Your obligations to them must come first. The court will order you to continue paying according to the higher income you could still be earning in your old job, according to your “ability” to earn, not according to the lower income you would actually be earning in your new venture.

Of course, if you selfishly start your new venture anyway, and you succeed, do not fear the court and your ex will continue to castigate your selfishness from the sidelines. They will not be too proud to admit they were wrong. Your ex will promptly file a motion with the court for a modification upward of alimony claiming-you guessed it-that the significantly changed circumstances of your success means you can better support her in the style you established for her during the marriage. No matter that she didn’t invest any of her human capital in the venture. No matter that, you failed the court may not have called a change in your circumstances and modified your alimony downward. In granting her motion, the court will tell you that you can get away with being selfish once, but not twice, and that your obligation to your ex still comes first.

You were angry that your wife cheated on you during marriage, divorced you, and then forced you to finance her sexual liberation with alimony. But now you just pray she’ll marry the guy. Now you know about changes in circumstances. The remarriage of your ex would be one of the most significant changes your circumstances can have. Your alimony will mercifully terminate on the remarriage your ex.

Unless you have kids, and your ex is working less than full-time in order to be at home with them. So, when your ex remarries and loses her alimony, she will know how to get it back. She’ll promptly bring you back to court for an increase in child support.

More on the chapter “Alimony” on next summary