Why Choose Non-Modifiable Alimony?

By Matt Allen

As editor of DadsDivorce.com, I read through every question submitted to the divorce lawyers of Cordell & Cordell through our popular Ask a Lawyer feature. A recurring theme is people wanting to know how they can get out of paying non-modifiable alimony (or maintenance) that they agreed to in the divorce decree.

Particularly in this rough economy, many people have lost their jobs and are stuck paying an amount of alimony that they no longer can afford. So why agree to non-modifiable alimony in the first place?

Cordell & Cordell attorney Jennifer Paine said some of her clients have chosen non-modifiable support because they are stuck on numbers; they want a set number to pay and a certain end date.

“Modifiable support is always open-ended so the amount could go down, but it could go up, too,” she said. “Some of my clients do not want their ex-wives to reap the benefit of their hard work and pay increases after the divorce, so they want their support based on their income during the marriage.”

Clients will sometimes set the entire amount aside and then pay monthly to take advantage of the tax deductions for paying support, which the payer does not get for making a lump sum property payment, according to Paine.

Parties may have specific reasons for electing non-modifiable alimony, but the most obvious is eliminating the potential for the amount to be modified at a later date by the court so both parties are able to plan their finances accordingly, said Cordell & Cordell attorney Bradley Cunningham.

“Conversely, in cases where alimony is modifiable, one party could file such a request with the court,” he said. “Thus, it may become a costly legal battle for one or both parties with the end result of one party paying more in alimony or receiving less.”

Paine said the trick is to pick a number and an end date the client knows he can pay, no matter the circumstances, such as losing a job.

If the parties specifically set out in their divorce decree the amount of alimony is not subject to a later modification by the court that amount becomes static and will not change.

“Most of my clients just did not understand that non-modifiable really meant non-modifiable,” said Paine.

The rules for how, or even if, alimony is awarded vary widely from state to state, so be sure to speak with an experienced family law attorney in your jurisdiction.  Cordell & Cordell has offices in 30 states should you wish to consult with an attorney before making any agreement.

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8 comments on “Why Choose Non-Modifiable Alimony?

    At the time of the divorce, I was under so much stress and my attorney (not your firm) was terrible so I wound up choosing Non-Modifiable. During mediation, the amount and the length went up beyond my expectations but I felt so pressured that I went along with it. Now, everyday I wonder if I will be in jail for losing my job (I am in my 50s and I told them that I will not be able to keep a job in IT Tech at my age much longer) and not being able to pay. Are there any options left?
    Is there any real Divorce reform coming?

    I don’t understand how my ex is entitled to so much more as my ex than she was when she was married to me. If we were married and I lost my income, then we would have less money. In these alimony situations the ex is ‘guaranteed’ money even though my job / income isn’t guaranteed and the stress of this is getting to me.

    I left my Husband and now he is saying because I left him, he didn’t leave me he doesn’t have to give me a red cent. We aren’t at the end court date yet and alimony has not been discussed, can I tell the judge things have changed, meaning how he has denied me plenty of times of helping me out with a little money. I have been away from him over 1 year and not once has he given me a penny. Then ask for Alimony.

    Not paying the mother of your children is completely wrong. You don’t have the womb. You don’t carry the baby for nine months. Your careers are not impeded by the children nor does she care if it is– when your children are lucky and well cared for

    Nature says you do the supporting. And don’t punish her or your children by making her go to work in the business world on top of what she already does.

    John. I am a woman. I have two children. Please don’t make women out to be pathetic because having a child renders them unable to work. I have three degrees, run my own business, work full time, and take care of my children beautifully without alimony support from my ex husband. Women who depend on men just because they carried a child should be ashamed of themselves. Enough is enough!

    And men who don’t uphold their wedding vows should be held accountable. Just because you’re making a decent living doesn’t give you any right to give men or women who willingly leave a marriage after obtaining a great career a free pass. If you don’t like paying alimony to your ex, hypothetically of course, then keep your pants up and stay in the family. How pathetic is your reply?

    Once the paying party of Spousal Support is done paying according to Court order, can the receiving party go back to court to get Spousal Support reinstated?

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