Post-Divorce Financial Trauma

Many military families suffer from post-divorce financial trauma. After your divorce is final, your ex-spouse may not make the spousal support payments he or she agreed to make. This may occur because your ex is angry about the divorce, resents having to send you money, experiences financially tough times, or maybe even remarries and is pressured by his or her new spouse not to make them. Whatever the reason, not receiving the money you anticipate can have a devastating effect on your life. Here are some suggestions to help ensure that the support arrives:

Suggestion #1 – Court Ordered Spousal Support: If you're not working with a divorce attorney, you need one to file your spousal support agreement with the court and argue its reasonableness. It only becomes official once a judge or official approves it and makes it a recorded part of your divorce. If you're the one who's entitled to spousal support and you don't go through this process – and if your ex reneges on your agreement - you will have no legal recourse for collecting the spousal support you are entitled to.

Suggestion #2 – Contempt of Court Request: You can request that your spouse be held in contempt of court for failure to pay spousal maintenance. Assuming that your state allows you to take this step, a court can make an order that puts legal pressure on your ex to pay. In fact, your ex-spouse can go to jail for ignoring his or her support obligation. In states where you cannot accuse your spouse of contempt for failing to pay spousal support, you're in the same position as any other creditor that your former spouse hasn't paid. In this situation, whether or not you can collect from him or her depends on the debtor protection laws of your state. This may make all, or most, of your ex-spouse's property exempt from the debt-collection process. If that's the case, your past-due spousal support is uncollectible.

Suggestion #3 – Place a Lien on Assets: You can ask that a lien(a legal right to someone else's property until the owner of that property fulfills his/her legal obligation) be placed on property or assets your ex spouse takes away from a divorce. If your ex fails to live up to your spousal support agreement, you can ask the court for permission to take the asset with a lien on it as payment for what you're owed. However, if the asset is your ex-spouse's home, you may not be able to get your money until the home is sold. Also, if you have a lien on your ex's retirement account, you may not be able to collect the money until he or she retires or your ex quits or gets fired.

Suggestion #4 – Consider Disability Insurance to Cover Ex Spouse Support: Should your ex become ill or injured and is unable to provide, the court is likely to let your former spouse pay you less during the period of his or her disability. To prevent that you might consider taking out disability insurance on your ex so that a financial safety net is in place. The premiums would be your responsibility.

Suggestion #5 – Direct Deposit of Spousal Payments: After your divorce is final, communication can be anything but cordial. A direct deposit of spousal payments by your ex prevents late or forgotten checks, the arbitrary reductions in check amounts, or payments being reneged upon altogether. With automatic deductions, the court issues an order telling your former spouse's employer to deduct a certain amount of money from his or her paychecks and send it to the court, which sends you a check. In other words, your former spouse never sees that money.

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