5. Unjust Alimony Stories

1) Indefinite spousal support awarded, but failed to get reasonable modification when unemployed.

I was divorced in 2008 and we split our retirement funds 50/50, yet I have to pay indefinite alimony. I just don’t get it. When I retire I will probably have $2000/month from Social Security and $2000/month from my retirement fund. My ex-wife will probably be in the same situation. So I give her $2050/month and she has $6050/month total and I have $1950. Where is the fairness in that?


My wife ran a successful software consultancy business for several years, but just before we divorced she re-trained as a teacher. Our earning capacities are similar, but I have to pay to “support her in the lifestyle to which she is accustomed”, even though her full time income is sufficient for her to live a comfortable lifestyle and she could easily earn significantly more that she is earning today.


Last year I lost my job, so I went back to the courts to get my alimony modified. I expected that it would be suspended until I got a new job; but instead the judge lowered the alimony slightly so that the sum of the alimony, child support, and life insurance required to cover the alimony was the same as my unemployment check. So she gets $4000 of her own income plus $1550 in alimony, while I get nothing. I am desperately looking for a new job before my cash runs out. My ex is also trying to get my new girlfriend to pay her the alimony too. What obligation should my new girlfriend have to pay my ex-wife? I guess in Oregon they consider “household income”. Ridiculous.


At a time when I am out of work and concerned how I am going to make my next mortgage payment, I am forced to continue to pay alimony. To add to the problem, my request for modification was both time consuming and costly, taking several months and, so far, over $17,000 in legal fees.


Oregon needs to:

  • Abolish indefinite alimony
  • Terminate alimony at retirement of the payer
  • Limit alimony to 50% of the length of the marriage in all cases
  • Exclude the assets and income of the payer’s new spouse/cohabiter from any modification
  • Streamline the modification process
2) Indefinite spousal support awarded

I was married 19.5 years when the divorce was final. She divorced me, without my consent or desire; yet I have to forfeit half off my net income to her.


Yes, I have been paying half of my net income for the past year now. While this has been uncomfortable and seems out of balance, at least I know it will get better. What really annoys me is the fact that she received half of my retirement accounts (she had none), is entitled to receive social security based on my employment history and YET I still am ordered to pay her $1000 for life!


I understand and support payments that help her transition into a new life, where she can support herself, but there really need to be limits.


The Massachusetts reforms sound like something we could use here; at least in my experience.


There need to be controls in place that don't punish the higher wage earner, just because they make more money. Divorce is hard in every aspect and will have a financial impact no matter what steps are taken. Financial equity makes some sense, at least for the short term, but it is a complex and difficult thing to accomplish. The suggestions of alimony limits and automatic termination circumstances make a great deal of sense.


One concern I would personally have with any changes would be in regards to those who have already have divorce agreements. It would be favorable to provide a way to have these cases reevaluated so that they conform to any new laws.


So I am in favor of reforming the laws regarding divorce in Oregon. Specifically …


  • Alimony terminates at retirement
  • Alimony modifications should exclude from consideration the payer's new spouse's income and assets
  • Alimony is terminated upon the marriage of the recipient
  • Alimony is suspended while recipient is cohabitating and may resume thereafter
  • Alimony is limited to 30% of the difference in income at the time of the order
  • Alimony is limited to 30% of net monthly income (rather than 50%) and does not accumulate in arrears
  • Alimony is never payable and does not accumulate in arrears when  the recipient has more income than the payer, but may resume when income once again exceeds
3) Indefinite spousal support awarded, but failed to get reasonable modification when payers income decreased to due the economy.

I was married for 26 years and divorced in 2008.  The spousal support was based on the highest year of income I have ever had in commission sales, and I have been in commission sales for over 21 years. I also have to carry life insurance till the term ends in 2021.  The spousal support was set at $1700 per month till the year 2015, but then jumps to $2025 till retirement and then lifetime maintenance after that, award to be set.  I lost my job in April 2011 and found a job in May 2011, but making way less money.  I don’t make the money I was making when spousal support was set up as the economy has tanked.  I have fallen behind in support payments since starting my new job.  My current wife has debilitating medical problems which are very expensive.  She is currently working and has insurance, but it doesn’t cover all of her medical expenses, so she has to cover that, plus she pays her half of our bills.  Her condition is such that we don’t know how much longer she will be able to work. 


My ex-wife is healthy and only works part time, and is now going to school.  She has a boyfriend, but is not cohabitating with him.  We are in the process of negotiation but if that doesn’t work we will be proceeding with the appeal through the Oregon Court of Appeals.  So I’m right in the middle of this.

The length of time and amount of support both need to be modified and eventually end, so I can have a life with my wife and take care of her.  I need to be able to support her with her failing health, instead of my healthy ex-wife who is able to work. 


I have received letters from the state saying they will be notifying all the credit reporting agencies of my support arrearage, so that will ruin my credit.  I have worked very hard to keep my credit rating good, and this, which is impossible to perform, will ruin it.  It’s just not right.  They will also be taking any tax returns that we may be receiving.  However, since I’ve had to continually pull money from my IRA and eventually close it out to cover my monthly spousal support payments and to be able to pay bills due to this whole mess, I will have no retirement and I’ll have major penalties and taxes to pay on that this year, so I’m not expecting to be getting any tax returns any time soon.  I’m also in serious credit card debt due to the support demands and attorney fees trying to get things changed.  I just don’t see a way to get out of this hole or prison it has put me into.

4) Girlfriend of spousal support payer required to pay support.
Last year (July 2010) I bought a home with my boy friend and we were happy. In February of 2012
he lost his job. He looked for a job for a few months and then he filed for a modification of alimony
since he had no income except unemployment. She has a full time job and earns a good income so he
thought it would be a simple process to get a modification. Unfortunately this is not the case. The laws
allowed her to subpoena all my financial information. Apparently in Oregon, modification of alimony
is based on the household income of the payer. Her attorney asked for 3 years of my financial records
even though when he lost his job we had only been living together for 7 months. At first I was in disbelief.
I actually laughed until my friend said I needed to get an attorney.
My attorney sifted through my financial information and put together an order of protection, essentially
making my financial information confidential. The cost to do that was $3400.00. I felt utterly and totally
violated that someone had the right to dig through my financial information when I had never entered
into a legal contract with that person. I couldn’t believe that Oregon law would allow this to happen.
Nobody ever told me that I shouldn’t move into a home with a man who pays alimony because I could
be exposed.
At the end of the hearing we actually won our case, but did we? The modification of alimony went
as follows. My boyfriend earns $1820.00 per month on unemployment. They lowered the alimony
to $1550.00 per month, with $200.00 in child support to his son at University and $53.00 in mandatory
life insurance. This left him with no money to live on. Not only, is his x-wife getting 85% of his
unemployment check, but there is not enough withholding from the unemployment check to pay the
taxes. Call it what you want, I call it’s smoke and mirrors, I’m either paying his living expenses or I’m
paying the alimony and we are NOT married. Our home is not worth what we paid for it so for the
moment I’m stuck.
5) I wanted to protect my kids!
The amount I am transferring to my ex wife is over 40% of my income.  This is in addition to the several thousands of dollars that I paid her at the time of my divorce, money that I had to borrow and still owe. Once alimony, taxes, and insurance are deducted from my paychecks, my net income leaves me with barely enough to cover my modest mortgage and living expenses.  Our original alimony agreement was created in order to ensure financial equity between our households.  I agreed to the exorbitant amount to benefit my children who spend 50% of their time with their mother.  I’ve worked very hard to further my career and made much advancement over the last four years.  My x-wife has taken advantage of my hard work and has chosen to work at a job well below her qualifications, with the dual degrees she holds.   Because of our “equity” agreement, the less she chooses to earn, the more I have to pay.
When my income decreased during 2010, I approached my x-wife, in good faith, to work with me to seek a modification that would keep our households equitable.  Her response to my request for mediation has been to string me along for months with promises of an attempt to seek equality, while she was instead retaining a lawyer and has now threatened to sue me for an additional 60,000.  
I have fallen in love with a woman and want to marry but – because of the amount of money I have to pay can’t afford to buy a home, or even refinance the current small home I have.  Because we live in Oregon, we can’t live together or marry without putting her at risk of having my x-wife seek to take her income as she does mine.  I have NO disposable income to extend beyond my basic living expenses, so while my x-wife is taking frequent trips, working at an “easy” job, and saving for her retirement, I have no retirement, my sons have no college fund, and I am living pay check to pay check.
6) Still paying ex-wife even though she is married and working!
I have been divorced for just over one year. I have some complaints regarding laws of divorce. I give credit to the ladies at the Yamhill Support office for helping me follow the procedures in the necessary time frame.
When I married, my ex-wife’s, spousal support from her first husband stopped. Now under current law, if she is to get married, the spousal support that I am currently paying her will continue until our divorce decree states it ends.  
 Several months prior to our actual divorce date, she was spending weekends with the man whom she is now living. Two months after the date of our official divorce decree, she moved in with him at his house and property which he owns. She has lived there for one year and three months. Recently, I did get an attorney and the end result is that my spousal support obligation time was cut in half due to the bad economic times this country and I are going through.
While we were married, I provided her with a house and all the living necessities. After receiving 18 years of financial, emotional, and mental abuse I divorced her. I was the main “bread winner” so I can see where I would have to pay spousal support so that she could rent a place and live close to the standard of life we had. As I stated in the prior paragraph, she is no longer paying rent. She is living with a man who owns the place. The place she was renting was $1,200/month and I paid the $300 monthly electric bill. I was renting a duplex for $675/month plus water, sewer, power, and trash. To reduce my living expenses I moved into an apartment for $500/ month plus power. Clearly I did cut my expenses. 
My main point is; he is providing for her as I did during the marriage. Also, she is working as she did when we were married. So, why I am still paying spousal support? I have moved to a smaller place though still respectable. I cannot afford to travel but, she has gone to Hawaii. I have loan payments and spousal support obligations to pay. If I do not keep up on payments, I will get a negative hit on my credit report and charged late fees. 
I had a personal checking account with Washington Mutual; she did not have any accounts there. I was the only person who could sign on it. She forged my name on checks several times and also did online charges on my personal debit card. Washington Mutual would not press fraud charges. However I have heard of other people getting caught lately doing exactly what she did to me and they have been prosecuted by the law but, she wasn’t.
After stating these facts, I can see why husbands will disappear never to be seen or heard from again to avoid paying the ex-wife. 
The analogy I am trying make here is if I was laid off from work, I should collect unemployment for half the time I worked at that company, even if I start working at another job two weeks later. After all that is the way spousal support is legally written. So why doesn’t the State continue to pay people who found jobs before their unemployment time runs out? This is where the Legislature should step in and make a law which states that if either party moves in with someone else or marries someone else, the spousal support should end. This would save court time and cost, allowing the courts to function on more important items in society, and relieve the financial and mental stress on the ones who are paying the support.
Another thing I am finding out is, after the judge signs the Divorce Decree with the official stamp on it, it taking 10 to 14 days or longer for the Justice Division to process and get information back to the company for which I work and tell them how much to take out of my pay check. It is hard for me to understand why it takes so long, knowing that they use Fax’s, Scanner’s, and E-mail. This appears to me to be a prime example of how Lean Manufacturing tools should be used to speed up the processes and save the tax payers money by making the operation more efficient. After all, if a business wants to survive, they need to operate efficiently. This should also apply to government. Besides that, I am a tax payer, who is paying their wages, so in theory it makes me their boss, right?
I do feel that if there aren’t Personal Finance classes in high school teaching kids to be responsible for themselves, there sure should be. After all, Congress and the Presidents have shown that they cannot financially take care of the USA! 
7) Failed to get ANY modification when unemployed.

I had already lost my job and unemployment had lapsed long ago when my wife
divorced me.  The Clackamas County judge said, "You have the ability to get
another job and make good living, while your wife has never worked while
you were married.  So, I want you to pay $1500 a month."  

Two years later, my ex wife was working, I was still unemployed, bankrupt
and penniless, living off of my new wife.  I was totally humiliated.  I
could no longer pay alimony.  I asked my ex wife to meet with me and a
mediator to discuss the situation, but she got a lawyer who filed a
contempt motion and hauled me into court.  I filed a motion to reduce the
alimony, but the judge said, "Nothing has changed in your circumstances.
Your alimony stays at $1500/month."  He might as well have told me it was a
million dollars a month.  I have no income so I have no money with which to

As far as my new wife's finances go, we don't intermingle any funds between
us.  We have no joint checking accounts, we file income taxes separately
and we own nothing together.  The house and cars are hers alone.  Since
Oregon is not a community property state, I think my wife's finances are
safe, but I have no idea what's going to happen to me.  If I had any
property, I'm sure my ex would put a lien on it and if I had a paycheck,
she'd certainly garnish it.  But since I have neither, it remains to be
seen what she or the state can do.


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