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The Moneyist: I gave my ex-wife 50% of my wages as alimony so I could avoid debts. She agreed to help pay my expenses — but reneged on our deal

Dear Moneyist,

I have an irrevocable judgment against me. The creditors wanted to put a lien on my wages, so I agreed to pay my ex-wife alimony of 50% of my wages so the creditors could not garnish my wages. We live together as roommates.

The understanding was that we would share the expenses, but she refuses to pay any expenses and now she hoards all the money for herself. She does contribute her Social Security benefits.

She still pockets over $2,000 a month. I am left with debt every month, and have had to use credit cards to pay our bills. When I discuss my financial dilemma, she says that this is her money legally.

What can I do ? Can I go back to the court and try to change the percentage of the amount of the alimony? I cannot continue getting deeper into debt. I cannot ask her to leave the house, because we are both on the title. Please help.

The Ex-Husband & Roommate

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Ex-Husband,

You made a high-stakes gamble — and it didn’t pay off.

You attempted to game the divorce-court system in order to avoid paying debts, but your ex-wife decided she needs and/or deserves the money more, and has decided to keep the handsome amount of alimony. It’s a tough break.

Whether or not it was an understanding (on your part) or a verbal agreement between the two of you makes no difference. She has the freedom to do whatever she wants with her alimony.

With the help of your lawyer, you could go back to divorce court and try to renegotiate your alimony. But you will have a lot of explaining to do, and the court would not look kindly on your plan to avoid a lien on your income.

A reduction or modification of alimony is typically awarded due to a change in circumstances — if your wife remarried or had a significant increase in her income, for instance, or if you had a dramatic fall in your own income.

However, be careful of trying to further game the system. If you decided to retire early, for example, that would not be regarded as a valid reason, as you would have to undergo an involuntary change of circumstances.

The law firm Eiges & Orgel may have one possible solution: “True cohabitation — meaning that two partners are now living together and acting as married couples do, rather than occasionally spending the night — can also spell the end of alimony payments.”

Did your divorce lawyer agree to your previous plan to give your wife 50% of your income in exchange for living expenses? That seems an unusual arrangement. If so, find a new lawyer this time, and tell him or her the unvarnished truth.

It may be time to sell your house, downsize and move on.

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

‘I just don’t trust my sister’: How do I gift money to my nieces without their mother having access to it?
We’re getting married and have a baby on the way. My wife has offered to pay off my $10,000 student debt and $7,500 car loan
I have three children. I quitclaimed my house to my most responsible son. Now he has blocked my calls
My brother-in-law died, leaving his house in a mess. His landlord wants me to repaint and replace the carpet. What should we do?

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