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The other day I was speaking to an ex-wife whose husband had lost his job and asked for what is known in the divorce business as a modification. This means the spouse — usually the husband — goes back to court to modify the alimony and custody payments that were based on a previous salary.

In the past, judges would make it tough for a spouse to get a modification. The judge would say that even if the spouse doesn't have cash, he could sell property or other assets to make good on his divorce deal.

Not anymore.

With real estate values plummeting, houses gathering dust on the "For Sale" block or foreclosing, salaries dwindling, 401K values collapsing and jobs disappearing, judges realize that modifications are not only necessary but fair.

The modifications are happening both for child support and alimony. Child support payments are usually a percentage of gross income — approximately 17 percent for a child — and alimony is the wild card in divorce settlements which is decided based on lifestyle, employment eligibility, and years of marriage.

This week, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers released a survey which stated that 39 percent of AAML members have seen an increase in child support payment modifications during the current economic downturn and that 42 percent of the attorneys cited a rise is alimony modifications.

When I mention to this ex-wife that her ex-husband most likely isn't stashing the cash in a Swiss bank account but genuinely compromised and therefore she should compromise, she becomes enraged. Past hurts flare up. The feeling of being as disposable as Kleenex makes her want to cry.

"Let him figure it out," she fumed. "I already am living on less as a divorced woman. It's not my problem."

But it is.

Some wives I'm speaking to are so preoccupied with fear for their own survival — and their kids — that they aren't as sensitive to how difficult it is for current paychecks to possibly stretch and support not one but two families. As my colleague Dr. Mark Banschick says, "It takes a big person to see that their husband is also entitled to a quality of life."

To many ex-wives, they are feeling cheated once again. First, they were cheated of the intact marriage and family that maybe broke up because they were cheated on and now cheated by the system in not making their ex-spouse pay. But divorce blinds people sometimes to being clear-eyed.

I thought about this again after reading the New York Times piece the other day on how judges are managing these modification requests that are flooding courtrooms like a financial Katrina.

As Judge Matthew Troy, who has been a Family Court judge in Manhattan since 1999, explained, it's tough for everyone.

In recent weeks, he told the Times, he had a former Lehman Brothers executive whose $7 million in stock had disappeared, leaving him unable to pay his child support as well as a factory worker who went from a decent-paying factory job to working in food service during Mets games in Queens.

Judge Troy lowered the former factory worker's monthly payment for his three teenagers to $50 per month, from $686. Otherwise, he feared, the father would be unable to meet his obligation and face a more drastic punishment: jail.

"It wasn't his fault he lost his job," Judge Troy told the Times. "I don't want to throw a guy like that in the clink."

For many divorcees, these types of modifications are going to continue until the economy improves. Instead of focusing on frustration and anger, perhaps another alternative would be to go to a mediator and have someone help referee a new settlement to reduce expensive legal fees. What most people are forgetting is that these modifications are not always permanent but temporary.

Not only does a percentage of unemployment benefits go to child support but one can work out an agreement that when finances improve, so will the distribution of funds. When discussions take place with understanding and sensitivity, the results are usually better. It is always beneficial to have these talks before battling in court. And even though you may not be married to this person anymore, you will still have a parental partnership worth maintaining for the sake of your children.

So you can be red with rage that the job market tanked but also mindful that few things are forever whether it's a marriage, a mortgage, or a mangled economy.

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24 comments

  • Comment Link Leanne Lemon Thursday, 09 February 2017 13:18 posted by Leanne Lemon

    There is a proper way to go about trying to reduce spousal support after a job loss. You must file papers with the court as soon as this happens. If you simply decide on your own to stop paying you are willfully going against a court order. This could cause all sorts of trouble not only for you, but the people depending on that money for income. If you are found in contempt of court it could cost you a lot more money or even jail time. So, do the proper thing, file the papers and tell your ex. about the situation. Most ex's don't want you to go to jail they simply want to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives as well as their children's lives.

  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 23 January 2013 03:28 posted by Guest

    Really?: This article contains an absolutely absurd amount of asumption

    "It takes a big person to see that their husband is also entitled to a quality of life."

    That is one of the most egocentric moronic statements ever uttered by human vocal cords. You don't have to be a big person to see that it isn't right to make someone miserable for your gain.

    "First, they were cheated of the intact marriage and family"

    Do women really think like that? You literally just assume it's ALWAYS the man's fault? Hasn't the man lost all the samet things the woman has? Several studies say men actually take ending a relationship far harder than women in general. If he cheated that's one thing, but infedility only causes 17% of divorces. So it's not even the most common reason for it.

    The core concept of alimony is dated anyways. It is a relic from a time when women more or less couldn't and didn't work. So they got alimony until they could find another husband to support her.

    Why is a woman entitled to money because a man spent thousands and thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands) on a ring to secure a commitment. It sounds like a major inequality to me. The woman has an emotional investment, but the man has both an emotional and fiscal investment. So the person with the most invested has to (generally) pay!



  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 23 January 2013 01:50 posted by Guest

    Wow: That last sentence was just a way of saying that you don't have a job. You want to take money from a guy looking for a job because of health reasons? That's already pretty cold-blooded, but doing it while unemployed is downright dispicable. No matter what the circumstances. In my view he should may be have to pay back alimony financed out over the remaining duration (unless it's permanent), but they don't do that.

    I would say if you aren't fully employed you aren't entitled to anything but starvation unless you can't work (but you obviously can.) If he's telling you he straight up can't pay, then forcing the issue is like..sociopathic, at least in my opinion.

    That being said if you live in California there is a pretty good chance you could force him to pay up. If he has money saved away (enough to reasonably live on), and his wife has provable income, and they are married you're definitely still entitled by law.

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 06 December 2012 04:23 posted by Guest

    men alimony: I was married for 25 years, stayed at home for 20 of those cause thats how he wanted it. He would leave for weeks getting training better education. I have a GED. He is an electronic eng has been for 30 years. he has remarried and is taking a buy out from his company. We have been divorced 9 years. I make 27,000 a year he makes 105,00 a year. And a wife with income higher then mine. I get a small alimony check and have 3 years left. Now he doesnt want to pay it at all. He has rentals 401k buy out. I'm not lazy I work hard. I have had no money to go to school and I am 57 years old. I have no 401k, no health insurance. I made the mistake of not having a lawyer and was bullyed into taking what he said was enough for me. He is worth over 1.2 milion I'm worth 225,000. So you guys out there NOT ALL EXWIFES GO AFTER THIER X'S THROATS. I just want the rest of the alimony we set up. So he was taking home 6thou a month and I took 1thou. I even said I would cut that in half and he wouldnt even consider it. So whos being the bitch?Off to court we go. If the court says tuff luck to him gives me more and longer I AM GOING TO ACCEPT IT. iF HE COMES BACK WANTING TO GO FOR THE HALF I OFFERED. It's OFF THE table. So all you whiny ass men who threaten & bully thier x's who cheat by hiding money and assets can all take a flying leap off a cliff. Better yet get what you have given ten fold. Oh and by the way I'm not fat, I cooked, cleaned I was at his bec and call. I was his door matt. NOT ANY MORE. Now I'm pissed now I go for his check book. And if he kicks me down I'll just start at his ankles and claw my way to his check book.. I do believe after reading this crap that you guys have writen I will make it my second job to go forth and inlighten all stay at home wifes that are being divorced to stay strong go for the throat and dont let go till tell the checkbook bleeds!

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 22 November 2012 14:40 posted by Guest

    Amen! You said it!: Amen! You said it!

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 22 November 2012 00:10 posted by Guest

    I feel you: I had the same problem. I was to pay my ex wife well over $3900 per month. At the court hearing she smile at me and said "I'm ever working again" in front of the judge.
    The owner of the place I worked for at the time was a good friend of mine, so "I got laid off" per say. I fought this devorce for approximately 2 years. After the final round of our divorced and not working full time for 2 years, she finally broke down and I bought her out of the alimony, $32k to be excacted, best money spent. She finally went to work so child support is only $65 a week for two children. I tell you the toughest time I've ever had to go through. The court would automaticlly take her side, it's wrong. They make it hard working on men. It is what I call "prison for life" paying a lazy woman to stay home with a new BF living off the ex husband. The system does not work. I understand now why some men do what they do, I dont say it's right, but some men snap, a lot of thoughts go through ones mind. Best of luck.

    DS

  • Comment Link Guest Monday, 05 November 2012 15:40 posted by Guest

    women & alimony: I have a problem with women getting alimony. Nine times out of ten some poor guy messes up because his wife refuses to meet his needs, then she stands around with her hand out to get his money forever.

    Take my ex, a 59 year old fat pig who couldn't have given a grunt about me and my needs - she gets 3,000 per month. The sorry piece of crap has a part time job and sleeps til 10 every day. She will never try to make it on her own, if she had that kind of grit she would likely still be married to me.

    I think the courts really mess up not making these women make it on their own. Nobody should be able to live off someone else except children.

    If I can find a guy who has no sexual needs, does not care for cooked food, will hire a maid, and likes to be completely dominated by a fat woman I am going to pay him to marry her. So far the only one I found that stupid is me!

  • Comment Link Guest Monday, 29 October 2012 08:23 posted by Guest

    Wow you sound like a real: Wow you sound like a real bitch. After being with this guy for 27 years youll end up just like her. It takes two to ruin a marriage. You are putting her down to validate your own cheating.

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 14 September 2012 14:40 posted by Guest

    THAT kind of "woman": In response to the many stories of men ravaged by money hungry women..... I seriously pity them..... In truth most of the responding females seem to have so. much pent up anger and are ready to ATTACK!!!!!! There big defenders of women who are portrayed as "lazy" or "selfish" and unwilling to contribute in any aspect within relationship- BIG CLAIM TO "SET THEM FREE": Do you know how hard it is to be a homemaker or stay-at-home Mom!!!?!?? GIVE ME A FRIGGIN' BREAK! Yes yes and yes I have been there & done that! I was home with my 3 children HOWEVER I worked part time when they were little (for my own sanity/getting out of the house AND to CONTRIBUTE * my husband makes plenty enough BUT threes something to be said for "NOT making him bear the total brunt". NOW when all 3 were in school full time (1st grade) I went to work full time, Mothers hours at 1st then 8am to 4:30pm and hired neighborhood tern a few hrs. A week. Worked out excellent! So why all the whining about Oh Housework is SOOOOO hard.... and on and on..... I say you are the women who pin the man HARD for as much alimony possible. Go work lazy! ****Then U argue well because I was home raising the kids I had no career and cant start now (at what 43, 48, 52 years old)????? Nope retirement age was bumped to 67.5 a couple years ago.... But its OK to make the X husband bust his AS* well into HIS 60's though!?!! If alimony is ever ordered it should ONLY be to "rehabilitate" NEVER EVER to "afford someone the same lifestyle standards! Shelter, food and that's it! And 'Ladies' STOP blaming the man for the divorce ALWAYS- Ya know its Never ont 1 sided! And if he cheated???? Yeah he did do wrong BUT WHY did he stray??? HMMMMM!? USUALLY cause his Wife stops giving him sex- do you know how cruel that is? It'd s human need AND grounds for divorce! So (MEN) out there Do know not all us women are money grubbers in disguise as a 'woman's who plays nicety like she'll give you the world and more until 'something' doesn't go her way........

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 03 August 2012 18:07 posted by Guest

    prettyones' "comment": Wow,

    27 years of marriage...She stayed home to take care of her kids, house and her husband. Its a full time job and its not easy to do day in and day out. There are no days off or sick days offered for her.
    Do you have kids? I can't believe you would have the balls to call her fat and lazy.
    Those are your opinions and nothing more.

    Now on to you...
    You cheated with a married man..in love or not..your cheated. Beyond that.. HE cheated. So now look at who is a piece of crap.

    You choose a man who after all those years, cheated with someone who has no moral compass and is a heartless b@#$%.

    Your must have some serious Karma coming your way....
    She is the lucky one....Now hes yours and you will have this come back around to you in karma.

    Good Luck with that..

  • Comment Link Guest Monday, 09 July 2012 17:56 posted by Guest

    other woman: I am more disgusted by you then her. One word to describe you....PATHETIC!

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 05 July 2012 11:54 posted by Guest

    I was married to a: I was married to a "wonderful" man for 15 years. What you are is naive. I don't doubt the facts you mention but here is how it really happens.

    Husband and wife agree she will stay home with children when they are little. Child starts school, wife gets a part time job during school hours so she can still be there when the child is not in school. FYI children go to school 185 days year leaving 180 days that they are not in school. Wife must figure out child care for those 180 days as husband told wife parenting the child while she is not home is "inconvenient" for him.

    Wife replies, sorry but I need your help. Daycare is expensive. It doesn't make sense for me to work just to pay for daycare. Mr. wonderful says "well then don' t work. Staying home with child is more important."

    What he really means is "if you aren't here, I can't go out, get drunk, and come home whenever. I won't have someone that I can crawl into bed with whenever I get home. If you aren' here, who will have sex with me willingly or not because I work really hard to support you and it's the least you can do."

    Fast forward 10 years and another child. Wife has been up for 48 hours with baby. Begs husband to hold child just for an hour so she can take a nap. Mr. wonderful says "no". I have other things to do. Later that day he tries to kiss her. his breath reeks of beer and cigarettes. He does have a pot belly which do make his legs look like chicken legs.

    He decides one day she's mean but agrees to counseling. Says he will "try to love her again". But it becomes clear his heart is not in it when he becomes physically abusive to wife and children. In that way he forces her to pull the plug so he can look like a the victim.

    Now Mr. wonderful is divorced, his wife has spent most of her life taking care of him and the kids. You are damn right she deserves alimony and then some.

    Oh by the way he is also a cheater. Still asks his ex wife for sex once in a while. Yuck!!!

  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 20 June 2012 17:06 posted by Guest

    Alimony after ex quit job: Because of health reasons my ex quit his job. In
    California, am I entitled to receive my full alimony? His new wife is working and he is looking for a new job, but there are very little job opportunities out there. I was counting on the alimony to get me through the summer. I only have a temporary job with the local school district and it's "off season" right now. What should I do, legally?

  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 23 May 2012 01:10 posted by Guest

    pathetic women in divorce: I'm the "other" woman and with a wonderful man who's wife paid him NO attention and would NOT get off her fat a** when the 2 kids were in school and work..... pathetic excuse for a REAL woman! She was mean to her husband aka my NOW boyfriend saying he was a bad kisser; had chicken legs; never wanted to kiss or hug or cuddle at night. Now after 27 years of marriage and her CONSTANT excuses not to get a job she is asking for absurd alimony amounts and taking him for a miserable ride! Yeah course he hooked up w/ m e but its her own fault she got mean lazy and fat and would not contribute financially or at home Oh yeah and denied him sex too. She should get a job and be accountable for herself like EVERYONE ELSE!

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 16 June 2011 18:44 posted by Guest

    It isn't always the man's fault: I was happy to let my ex wife stay home "with the children", however she did NOTHING at all when
    she was home. She didn't work with the kids, she didn't clean the house. All she did was lie to me
    about anything that she could and hide mail from me at every opportunity. My son turned 4 years
    old and she hadn't even TRIED to toilet train him even though she was a full-time stay-home "mom".
    I did not have an affair. I did not leave her due to a mid-life crisis. I spent a year in counseling trying
    to find ANY reason to let me stay in the marriage.

    I am an educated and involved Father who loves his children and I have 50% custody of my children (they
    spend at least 1/2 their time in my humble house). So, what happened when we divorced? I pay her
    $3000/month while she lives in a house that is 60% larger than my tiny little place. She works part time
    at the school and has taken each of the last 3 Summers off completely. Because she doesn't try to live
    within her means, she has been in debt for the past 2 years and I have bent over backwards to help her,
    including: paying her alimony and child support weeks early every month and loaning her $12,000+
    out of my pocket.

    My standard of living has dropped considerably. Her's is about equivalent to mine even though I have
    2 degrees and have worked for 29 years while she has been to 5 colleges with no degree and hasn't worked
    full-time since the early 90s. Given that I have my children at least 1/2 time, someone please tell me how
    that is remotely fair?

    Now, if I am unfortunate enough to lose my job, it will be incumbent upon me to prove to the court that
    I can't pay her, rather than the obvious fact that when there is reduced income, it isn't possible to support
    two households.

    To the point about "why doesn't he use his retirement?" - my ex got 1/2 of all of our assets (that I alone
    accumulated) and a big chunk of my pension, too. So, how about "why doesn't she dip into the retirement
    assets that she "inherited" rather than me paying her more, too?

    This is the most bizarre "system" that I have ever seen. Someone who couldn't be bothered to be a partner
    or parent to our children is "entitled" to live at the same standard of living as the partner who got his
    education and has worked for 29 years? What a joke.



  • Comment Link Guest donna Sunday, 16 January 2011 15:30 posted by Guest donna

    1st wives club: I believe if you were married to your spouse 18 years or longer and your ex-spouse was the cause of the divorce due to adultrey or his mid-life crisis, then the ex-spouse should pay as long as the court order decree states. Why should second or even third wives benefit form the stuggles of supporting him in his career, raising the kids, going without and the struggles it entails from the bginning to the endfor someone else to reap the benefits.

    2nd wives knew what they were getting from the start when they became involved with the divorce spouse and have no reason to complain. If they weren't ready to deal with the alimony or child support then they should have went out and found a single man with no obligations to the d1st family. These no-fault states and divorces encourages divorce among families therefore destroying the family foundation. All individuals deserve to be happy in the relationship without outside interference and yes, I believe there should be grounds for divorce other than "I am not in love with you anymore, or I fell in love with someone else, or I am not happy". Marriage was not based on everything being happy and if you were happy and together for 18 years what changed? Maybe the other woman?

  • Comment Link Guest Tuesday, 07 September 2010 22:44 posted by Guest

    You really believe that: You really believe that alimony represents favoritism to men? I'm an unmarried woman who thinks it is absolutely ridiculous that alimony can be a lifetime mandate. In a marriage, it takes two to make the decisions. If the wife decides to stay home and not work, she should hold responsibility for that decision rather than pointing to the husband as the culprit for that decision. If the husband wasn't willing to be the sole earner thus doubling his stress, would the wife have the luxury of spending ample amount of time with the children? The husband is working to support the whole family, not only himself. If a marriage dissolves, how can the wife argue that she deserves a lifetime of alimony when the she also enjoyed the benefits of not working? And if the wife did work, how can she argue for alimony when her pay would still have remained the same even if she had been unmarried? How can a woman justify using someone's retirement fund as money for support? Obviously, investment into their 401k is money that was gradually invested into their retirement fund, not one lump sum that was stowed away. Perhaps these woman should stop thinking of themselves as the victim but look forward to the future. They should stop bitching about how their standard of living has declined and need more alimony. You enjoyed the benefits of your husband's money when you were married that you wouldn't have otherwise have had the privilege of enjoying if you were single. How can you justify sustaining that kind of living when you are not earning it? These type of divorcees are plain greedy and it is very unfortunate that our laws tolerate such greed.

  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 01 September 2010 05:00 posted by Guest

    Adjustment of alimony and child support: Reference adjustment of child support and alimony, how do i get it decrease. I about to loose my job, so instead of owing money that I will be able to pay, i will like to file for adjustment as soon as possible, so i will not go many months with out paying, because i will not have the money

  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 23 June 2010 09:51 posted by Guest

    I can't understand the mind: I can't understand the mind set of a woman who is a habitual cheater, decides to divorce, receives alimony then is hostile when the ex-husband remarries. This particular POS has never worked a day in her life and gets a huge chunk of change monthly and has the audacity to complain? Where is your self worth? Whatcha gonna do when it runs out?

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 24 September 2009 11:34 posted by Guest

    Alimony when SHE cheated?: My husband has been paying alimony for 12 years now (we have been married for 7). All the kids are grown now (ages 25 to 30) and have children of their own. My beef is that the ex-wife was the one who had the 'affair' after 14 years of marriage and couldn't decide if she wanted to stay after two years of unsuccessful counseling. She than battled with the courts for almost 4 years so when the divorce was finalized it was close to 20 years of marriage which then increased her alimony. She hasn't worked now for 5 years and states, "she wants to spend more time with her grandchildren! " So it seems now he can never stop paying her alimony, so what gives a judge the right to put a LIFE sentence on a man? I call Alimony; The lazy bitch syndrome! Why not put the time of alimony payment the same time as the years of marriage? What is going to happen when we want to retire in 10 years? All the retirement savings WE have been working hard for will go towards the alimony while she gets to sit on her ass and stays the 'victum'.

  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 22 April 2009 11:53 posted by Guest

    well thats to bad...I guess: well thats to bad...I guess in New York State it just might equalize the fact that fathers have no rights....I bet he cheated cause your a high maintannence troll

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 09 April 2009 17:08 posted by Guest

    I have no sympathy for lost: I have no sympathy for lost jobs when thousands of dollars have been spent on the Other Woman and for loads of "entertainment." This has been an issue in my situation as well. If a father/ex husband has money stashed in a 401K or other investments, they have money for support. As a women divorced in the past year, I too have struggled finding decent full time employment, and the standard of living for my children and I has dropped dramatically. I guarantee the court wouldn't have any sympathy to help me if I lost my job, and my share of child support that I am expected to provide wouldn't be altered. Also, the court would stand by and do nothing as I lost my house. Sorry, I have every right to be red with rage over this favoritism to men.

  • Comment Link Wednesday Thursday, 09 April 2009 09:55 posted by Wednesday

    I wish my ex would have talked to me: when he lost his job. But instead, he just stopped paying child support. Completely. He still had money for bars, and for buying a Wii (for himself!), but not one dime to help pay for our daughter's expenses. I can guarantee you that if I lost my job? He wouldn't have ponied up more of *his* cash to make up the shortfall.

  • Comment Link Guest Thursday, 09 April 2009 09:34 posted by Guest

    divorce/alimony: Gee, I wonder if it would be possible to sue the mistress for alimony. After all, she broke up our marriage and the ex is spending tons of money on her, vacations, gifts, theater tickets, and baseball games for her and her son. I think if men can afford the mistress, they can afford to pay the wife what she deserves. If it weren's for her, I wouldn't be living the lifestyle I am. All the hard work I put into the marriage with my career and my money is now being used on her. Why is it that she gets the goods and the wife gets what's left over?