Withholding Alimony Payments To Pay Off Mutual Debts

mens divorce lawyer William BackerQuestion:

I am ordered to make monthly alimony payments to my ex-wife per our divorce decree.

We both owe a mutual debt to the IRS. However, I do not have enough money to afford this payment.

May I withhold alimony payments from my ex-wife and use that money to pay off our IRS obligation?


I am only licensed to practice law in Missouri so I am unable to give you legal advice on divorce in your state. I can give general divorce help for men, though.

The first place you should look to for guidance on any question you may have concerning any issues between you and your ex-spouse is the court order that is signed by the judge and the written settlement agreement that you and your ex-spouse have executed.

I am guessing that since you asked this question, that your court order and written settlement agreement do not specifically state that you are allowed to withhold alimony (which is also known in other jurisdictions as spousal support or maintenance) to pay a mutual debt to the IRS.

If the court order or written settlement agreement does not allow you to offset debts, you should not withhold alimony payments for any reason.

In Missouri, where I practice, maintenance may only be ordered if the court finds that the other spouse: lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him/her, to provide for his/her reasonable needs; and is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.

In Missouri, alimony is viewed as essential to provide for the other spouse’s reasonable and everyday needs.

You should be aware that non-payment of alimony is taken seriously by the court, and can be enforced by a motion for contempt, which could result in going to jail. Certainly, a debt to the IRS is very important as well.

Remember, I have only provided you with general information, not financial advice on divorce.

To schedule an appointment with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including William F. Backer, an Associate Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office, contact Cordell & Cordell.

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