Can I get my alimony reduced if ex lives with boyfriend?

Question: My divorce was final in June of 2009. I was ordered to pay my ex wife $1,500 per month in transitional spousal support and $501 per month in child support.

Since July of 2009, my ex wife has been cohabitating with her boyfriend. Since she is now cohabitating intimately with her boyfriend, would I have a case for reducing or eliminating the spousal support?

After paying the monthly spousal and child support, I am only left with about $200-$300 of my net pay. This has left me effectively homeless, barring the good graces of a few friends and family.

 

Answer:

Because I am licensed to practice law in Michigan, I can only give you general information, and I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney in your state. You should not rely upon this information as creating an attorney-client relationship, and you should seek counsel in your area for further instructions and suggestions within the parameters of the laws of your state.

That being said, there are common themes in spousal support (i.e., alimony) cases, one of which is that whether the award is modifiable depends on the specific language in the support order. If the order awarded non-modifiable support, unfortunately, it usually is non-modifiable unless a state statute requires something in addition to that language.

In Michigan, for example, the parties must execute an agreement that the award truly is non-modifiable. (Making matters worse, by federal law support obligations are not automatically discharged in bankruptcy, meaning, for example, an ex-husband could end up bankrupt, penniless and still owing his ex-wife). If the order is silent, usually it is modifiable. The standard for modification varies by state, and the likely success by the facts in the case and the temperament of the judge hearing the motion.

You should consult with an attorney in your area to discuss what options, if any, you have based on the particular order language and facts in your case.

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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