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I Can’t Afford Alimony — What Do I Do?

by | Sep 24, 2019 | Alimony and Spousal Support, NY

Alimony, often called spousal support or spousal maintenance, is a payment made from the higher-earning spouse to the other for the purpose of providing temporary financial assistance to a lesser-earning spouse during and after a divorce. Support payments typically continue until the lesser-earning spouse is able to support themselves financially.

If ordered to pay spousal maintenance, what happens if you can’t afford it? Fortunately, you do have legal options to reduce your alimony payments if they’re higher than what you can feasibly pay.

How Alimony is Calculated

Spousal support is calculated similarly to child support and many factors are taken into consideration before courts make a decision as to who gets paid and how much. To award alimony, a judge will review:

  • The income and financial obligation of both spouses
  • The age of both spouses
  • The physical and mental health of both spouses
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The standard of living each spouse had become accustomed to during the marriage
  • If one spouse stayed home to care for the children while the other pursued a career
  • If one spouse gave up educational or employment opportunities so the other could pursue their own educational or employment opportunities
  • Any history of domestic violence in the home
  • If the couple shares children and how old they are

I Was Ordered to Pay Too Much — How Can I Prove It?

If a judge in a Long Island court ordered you to pay more alimony than you can afford, you may feel hopeless, frustrated, and unsure of what you can do to resolve the situation. Spousal maintenance calculations are fairly standard, so as long as you’re providing accurate financial records, the court should come up with a payment that makes sense for you. If not, you can go back to those financial records and illustrate how paying the amount ordered will put a significant financial strain on your family. Courts are usually not so rigid that they will continue ordering you to pay support after clearly showing that doing so would be detrimental.

You may also be able to petition the court for relief if your ex-spouse’s financial needs have changed since the divorce was finalized. For example, if your ex has gotten a new job and is now making twice the amount they were when you initially dissolved your marriage, you may be able to ask a judge to reduce your payment since your ex no longer needs the funds to support themselves.

The Consequences of Failing to Pay Alimony on Time

If you fail to pay spousal support on time, you can end up facing serious consequences, including wage garnishment, seizure of your tax refund, and even jail time for being held in contempt of court. All of these are possibilities if you don’t meet your alimony obligations without notifying the court of any change in your ability to pay.

How to Modify Alimony Payments

Fortunately, you’re not stuck paying alimony you can’t afford to. If circumstances have changed since your divorce was finalized and you and/or your ex-spouse now have different financial statuses, your court order can be modified. This means that the portion of your original divorce decree that specified the amount and frequency of your alimony payments will be edited, or modified, to reflect the court’s new decision. Based on the financial documentation you can bring to the table, a judge may reduce or even terminate your alimony payments. Spousal maintenance orders are rarely legitimately permanent, so it’s important to explore the possibility of a modification any time you have a change in your financial circumstances.

Should You Hire a Long Island Divorce Lawyer?

The easiest and most effective way to modify your alimony payments is to work with an experienced Long Island divorce attorney. If you and your ex-spouse agree on the change to the maintenance agreement, you may be able to simply submit a signed and notarized copy of the change to a judge. However, this is usually not the case — the recipient often wishes for spousal support to continue and may contest the modification. A seasoned alimony lawyer can help protect your rights and best interests as you negotiate the reduction of your court-ordered support. Contact our experienced Long Island divorce and family law firm for a free consultation today at 631-923-1910.

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