Is there anything I can do? How can a court order a financial award that is above the means of the paying party?
It really depends on how the award you’re paying was designated in the court’s ruling. If you’re unable to pay child support or alimony, you may be able to ask the court to modify its ruling on those issues. If you’re paying as part of property division, you may have an uphill battle.
In most cases, if you’re talking about child support, you’ll need to show that there has been a permanent and substantial change in circumstances since the time your decree was entered. This usually means a change in one of the factors that goes in to the child support calculation.
Every jurisdiction calculates child support a little differently, but typically these factors are income, insurance, child care, and visitation. If any of these have changed on your end, you might try asking for a modification.
How Much Should You Be Paying?
As with child support, if it’s alimony you’re trying to change, in most states the standard is a permanent and substantial change since the decree’s entry. This change must affect your ex-wife’s need for the support, or your ability to pay the support.
Some factors that could justify a modification of support spousal include changes in income for either party, your ex-wife’s voluntary cohabitation with another man, or her remarriage.
If you’re unlucky enough that your obligation is termed a property division in your decree, you may be out of luck. In most every state, the terms of a decree regarding property division are not modifiable.
Unlike alimony, property division payments are not terminable or modifiable upon the remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient and they must be paid until complete.
You should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney, such as the ones at Cordell & Cordell, to identify the type of payment you’re making and give you information regarding the applicable rules specific to your jurisdiction.