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Spousal support question

k8la posted 1/26/2021 11:39 AM

I have a young family member going through a divorce - filed for divorce before their 5th anniversary. The type of infidelity was financial - not sexual. When his wife quit her job (it was an abusive situation - she needed to be working somewhere else that was less of a ball-and-chain-type call center) but then didn't look for anything else, and took out credit cards and ran up 10s of thousands in credit card debt without him finding out until they went to refinance their house - that was the final straw and he filed.

They've agreed on assets splitting and division of the pets (no children). But she wants spousal support for life. I know and he knows she won't get it, but in our state you can usually get a divorce in less than 90 days and he filed in October. He's been in limbo and she's still holding out for spousal support.

How long can she pull this off?

What can he do without racking up lawyer fees to move it along?

Catwoman posted 1/26/2021 12:45 PM

This could be considered "dissipation of marital assets" and subject to censure or an unequal division of debt. It depends on what was purchased--if it were things that benefitted only one party (i.e. clothing), she could get stuck with the lion's share of the debt. More information here would help.

Does she have an attorney? A good attorney is going to discourage these sorts of antics. If she is pro-se, this could continue to be problematic.

What are the considerations for spousal support in this individual's jurisdiction? If she doesn't meet the parameters, it doesn't really matter what she wants . . . she is likely to get what the state allows.


skeetermooch posted 1/26/2021 12:49 PM

This is a question with too many variables to be answered with an accuracy. Every state has different rules regarding spousal maintenance. It's certainly being phased out as a whole and from what I've seen in friends and family it's rare for anyone to get more than 3-5 years of alimony even in long term marriages where folks are getting older - so while I don't know the rules and norms where you are, I would guess lifetime is not on the table.

As for how long this can be drug out - it depends. With covid the courts are running slower and with enough money her lawyers may be able to drag the divorce out for a few years at least, although these don't sound like wealthy people so that seems unlikely. If there are temporary orders in place that require spousal maintenance they will stay in place until the final decree.

Many courts offer mediation services of some kind - pre-trial mediation, etc. He should look into that.

Ratpicker posted 1/26/2021 14:57 PM

If the divorce was filed already as a no-fault, then the spending would likely not be a factor. Did they file themselves/ pro se or have an attorney file representing one of the parties?

If the innocent spouse feels like the spousal support demand will be considered it maybe in their best interest to amend the filing. If they are in a no-fault only state, the debts might be used against her arguement for spousal support. A local attorney would likely have to answer those questions because so much depends on that state's laws.

k8la posted 1/26/2021 16:47 PM

He's taking on the debts - the house had just been refinanced to deal with her credit card fraud on him, so equity in the home is accruing only because we're in a hot real estate market but he filed in October. He'd managed to put whatever didn't go into debt liquidation into savings, so she'll get half of that.

Their vehicles were paid off or gifted by her father so he conceded any ownership on the one gifted by her father.

We're in a no-fault state. They've agreed on division of assets, and him keeping the obligation on the mortgage as well as the house. The hardest thing for him to give up was the pets.

CallingSpades posted 1/26/2021 22:02 PM

He could do a consult with an attorney to see what they think it would take to get him out of limbo. Here in PA my retainer was only $500 and they thought they could do the whole divorce for $1500 (they didn't, but not their fault). If you're in VA or something it's a whole other story, but should still be able to find a free 30 min consult to get an idea.

P.S. She sounds really fun... Hopefully she'll latch on to someone else soon in which case she'd lose any claim to maintenance - here spousal support ends with cohabitation even if she doesn't remarry.

[This message edited by CallingSpades at 10:05 PM, January 26th, 2021 (Tuesday)]

Bigger posted 1/27/2021 08:21 AM

The absolute worst advice offered on SI is legal advice – mine included.

This varies state-by-state and country by country but the general rule is that spousal support is limited by certain factors.
Like if the wife worked to support the man through medical- or law-school, if his present career and earning ability was assisted or created by her, if she delayed her education or career to have kids, if they jointly agreed she should be a SAHM for an extended period…
Don’t think any of those apply to this situation so I wouldn’t worry too much about her demand.

HOWEVER… and this is the VERY BIG HOWEVER…
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS get an attorney to finalize the details.

Especially since this is financial infidelity. Once again this varies state-by-state and country-by-country but generally ALL debt entered while married is marital debt. Even if she got a credit-card without his knowledge and solely used it for her own purchases that debt MIGHT come back to bite him some day. Irrespective of their decision on who should pay.

Imagine this scenario: A credit-card issued to Mrs Spendy. She runs up a 20k debt. It’s in the clear now – at time of disclosure and division of assets/debts. It’s decided that she assumes that debt in the divorce. Two years from now the credit-card issuer sells the debt to a collections agency. They call Ms Spendy who states she has no intention or ability to pay. She has no assets, no vehicles, no savings… collector realizes it’s wringing a dry stone. So they do some research: Card and debt from when she was married… Go after Mr Spendy. Divorce paper? No relevance to them. The creditor at the time of divorce never agreed a transformation of the debt-holder. ALWAYS assumed it was joint debt in accordance with the marital laws. Since Mr Spendy is financially careful he has a home, a car, some savings… collections smell blood…
OK – so even if he pays, he might be able to sue his ex. But remember: She has no assets, no vehicles, no savings… a dry stone.

It’s not enough that THEY decide how to split debt: It’s important – like REALLY IMPORTANT – that the owner of the debt accepts and agrees on the change. An attorney will quite quickly evaluate what debts are truly her debt and what debt might chase the man in the future.

gmc94 posted 1/27/2021 10:10 AM


spousal support is a VERY state specific thing, and even w/in states it can vary from region to region and then from judge to judge. So, the first question is if your state (or your family member's) even allows lifetime alimony. Is it modifiable or nonmodifiable? Does alimony via settlement vs via trial impact the ability to modify? From there, it kind of whittles down to the particular geographical area, and then the particular judge, as to what their general sensibilities are as to alimony. I can say in MY state and area, lifetime alimony for a short M with young/working age folks would NEVER happen, even tho the law does- technically - allow it. However, many judges would award temporary alimony if the circumstances warranted (eg wife didn't finish college bc the couple moved due to H's job - a judge may easily award some time limited alimony to get the wife through school). The thing is, only an experienced attorney in that area can really answer those questions. A divorce in my city may yield X outcome, but I could drive to another county 30 miles away and expect a completely different result.

As to the length of time to get to a final D if the STBX is "holding out" for alimony, that's also a region (or judge) specific thing, and Covid has not helped. IOW, in my area, it could take up to 18 months to get to a trial for a contested D (and once one party digs in on an issue that the other party doesn't agree to, then it's contested). But with Covid, I'd say it's more like 24-30+ months to get a trial (some judges will be quicker, and some slower, depending on what else is on their plate)

Now, in the meantime, IN MY AREA, any family court judge would have status or settlement conferences and probably try to suggest/persuade either side that appears to be acting unreasonable. Generally, speaking, judges don't like trials... and they REALLY don't like divorce trials.

Again, all questions that an attorney in that area should be able to answer...

HalfTime2017 posted 1/27/2021 19:11 PM

life time alimony for a 5 yr marriage? LOL, yea, she aint getting that. She's just an entitled little biatch, but she still aint gonna get it.

He has very little to worry about. No kids, and she'd be lucky if she got a couple of years.

barcher144 posted 1/28/2021 09:37 AM

The answer to this question really depends on the specific laws for each state (assuming USA).

It is very much worth the time and effort to look up statutes for alimony. You won't be able to figure out 'case law' this way, but it's a start.

(note: case law can be important. In my divorce, it has come up in two key areas. First, according to my attorney, case law in my state says that the maximum amount that the lesser-earning spouse can receive in child support and alimony is 51% of the post-tax income. I specify this is according to my attorney because STBXW's attorney has never agreed to this -- although they basically ignored the topic altogether, suggesting that it is legitimate. Second, case law in my state is clear that spousal maintenance is specific for SPOUSAL maintenance, not for children. Ergo, STBXW's "reasonable" budget associated with her request for alimony needed to be severely modified because she included expenses were clearly for the kids' -- that's what child support is for...)

In my state, there is a legal assumption that a spouse can either work a 40-hour work week or go back to school to get education so that s/he can work a 40-hour work week. In the latter case, alimony would be awarded only for a short time period to allow this education to happen.

How long can she pull this off?

What can he do without racking up lawyer fees to move it along?

My divorce has been in process for almost 30 months. Our issues were bigger than alimony, but alimony was a lot of that time.

As far as I can tell, there is nothing that would force a person to settle. You can try mediation, which, though expensive, involves an independent, third party that might convince her to settle.

In my experience, most people want more than their fair share during a divorce and they are willing to spend a lot of money not to get more than they deserve.

[This message edited by barcher144 at 9:43 AM, January 28th (Thursday)]

k8la posted 1/30/2021 14:32 PM

Interesting twist on what's tied up in my subconscious mind - I had a dream about her the other night - that I tried to talk with her and reason with her, and thank her for the good she brought into my son's life. And before the consequences of such a conversation caught up with me in the dream I woke up thinking, "What the hell?!"

My son would take such a conversation as a complete and thorough betrayal and she would definitely leverage it to isolate him from his family. What was I thinking that even in a dream state would make that ok?

I wish I could reason with her, I guess. But given the complete outrageousness of her behavior since he told her he was divorcing her, that I would think with any part of my intelligence - logic or emotion....

Anyway - just had to get that off my chest.

edit to add - I'm guessing that what brought it up for me was that I was sorting through piles of mail and mementos that have built up in my office this past week - and I came across a mother's day card. When he was living at home, he always gave me cards and gifts. And when he was with her, he was always thoughtful with us - even more so than before. I enjoyed watching him grow into the man he has become.

this year - no birthday card or Christmas card from him. I feel like the whole process has him hiding from us - I recognize he's in pain. But I hope he will retain the best parts of himself that he had become in his relationship with her and not throw it all out.

[This message edited by k8la at 2:37 PM, January 30th (Saturday)]

Countingsheep65 posted 1/31/2021 22:36 PM

Married 26 yrs. I filed for legal separation (due to business).

I am to receive $3,000/month until business sales in the next 3-4 yrs. After it sales he still has to pay, but it goes down to $1,500/month for ten years.

It definitely depends from state to state and how long the marriage was and how much dirt you can tell your ex you have on them to make them want to sign the agreement.

There’s no way her being married for 5 yrs she will get spousal support for life. Would be surprised if any.

Bigger posted 2/1/2021 10:30 AM

K8 – When I ended my relationship with my cheating fiancé I moved in with my elder brother and his family. My mom and dad had a big house with plenty of room and I knew all along that I was welcome back home, but I felt such a sense of shame and failure that I somehow couldn’t face my parents. It wasn’t until about 2-3 days after my d-day that I could talk to them. I only got love and support.

I’m guessing your son (I assume the family member is your son…) is feeling shame and loss. My suggestion would be to reach out to him and offer him whatever support he needs and you can offer.

DO NOT talk badly about his soon-to-be ex wife. Don’t harp about what a b!tch she is and how you saw this coming and all that. My stepson divorced a gold-digging, lazy, passive-aggressive rhymes with rich some years ago after a rather rocky +10 year relationship/marriage. EVERYONE saw it coming, including his friends, bio-dad, step-mom, my wife and I. Yet it took him about 3 years post-divorce before he too saw and understood her passive-aggressive behavior.

I’m also going to warn you against supporting or suggesting an aggressive divorce. The law is quite fair, and I suggest you just stick to it.

messyleslie posted 2/1/2021 17:53 PM

In my state the standard is half the length of the marriage. That said I was a sahm and my income was imputed at my last salary because it was expected that I get a job.

I think most people say about a year for a divorce if they go through all the steps. Mine still took 5 months and we didn’t go to mediation or court at all and it was orettt straight forward. It just takes forever.

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