Hi there. First I wanted to thank you folks for putting this group together and advocating for change. It is definitely overdue, and I hope you’ll not limit the mission to what has already been accomplished, but push for common sense in all aspects of Alimony Reform.
Let me tell you my nightmare story.
I’ll start by saying it’s not as nightmarish as some that I’ve seen and heard. I was fortunate enough to not be stuck with a lifetime of payments.
HOWEVER, my nightmare is every bit as real, and every bit as frustrating.
I’ll start by saying that I gave up a great deal of my dreams so that my ex (I call her the money-grubber) could pursue her education. Which she successfully completed by obtaining a Doctorate degree in Audiology a short time after unilaterally and secretly deciding that she should have an open marriage – a one-sided, open marriage – I think you understand what I’m getting at here. My career goals were put on hold while we payed her tuition and I worked full-time to maintain a household.
Fast forward to “mediation”. Her lawyer, the mediator, and believe it or not, my own lawyer, frightened me in to acquiescing to a 4-year temporary maintenance award, despite her now gainful employment, and my desire to work toward my own dream career. A couple factors contributed to the intimidation: 1) we had been married nearly 15 years at that point. 2) my career goals were “unsustainable” as I would start out making significantly less than what I was currently making. 3) she was just beginning her career and needed help getting on her feet. So, despite her being educated to the highest extent possible, and my wish to begin my own dream career, I begrudgingly agreed to a temporary award which granted her an income in addition to her own that rivaled that of a full-time $10/hour job. Not a bad bonus for giving up on a marriage.
That’s right, I agreed to provide her $2,000/ month for three years and then drop it to $1500/month for one more year. The alternative at the time seemed to be a person’s worst nightmare at best, and something akin to slavery at best. In the agreement, we also agreed to a Karon waiver, barring either one of us from seeking additional or less money due to changes in circumstance.
Now fast forward to last year when she got remarried after just 2 years and 3 month out of her 4 year temporary award. A gift! My God, suddenly I don’t have to scrape by as much, and I can breathe again. Despite her initial argument that the Karon Waiver meant that she should continue to receive her alimony, she eventually conceded that that was not in fact true. Nowhere in the waiver is there an explicit statement providing that alimony shall continue in the event of her remarriage. Yes, it outlines dates as to when alimony should decrease, and cease altogether. Yes it divests the court from their ability to modify it. But, nowhere does it waive my right to relief by way of state statute. The applicable statute reads that unless EXPLICITLY stated, alimony ends when the receiving party dies or gets married. There is not a single sentence that reads anything like “if the money-grubber gets remarried, she gets to continue to receive my slave-money”. Nothing even more legal-eze sounding.
And here is where the real nightmare begins. We had a difficult time figuring out what the new child-support figure should be because of the highly variable nature of my income. The more than fair figure I had picked out just wouldn’t cut it for the now “destitute,” former receiver of my slave-wage. Shortly a motion to modify child support showed up at my door. My lawyer and I did our part and responded appropriately.
Much to our jaw-dropping surprise, the judge took it upon himself to muddy everything he possibly could. First, he decided that since she was representing herself, it was his duty to make sure she was availed of all applicable rules, etc. Following that, he decided that since a Karon waiver existed, that was enough to make the case that alimony should not have ended. He therefor did not make any change to child support, or anything relevant related to her motion to modify. The judge cited one single case that truly didn’t line up very well with the facts of this case.
I found out weeks later that the judge intended to retire soon.
I can only surmise that he was sympathetic to her plight, and our income difference was enough that he thought I should be able to handle continuing alimony payments, despite the lack of clear and explicit language that would make those payments actually legally required.
I’ve asked around. Assuming a clean divorce with nothing but an alimony payment being forced upon one party, there is not a requirement to get a court order to end alimony when the other party gets re-married. State statue is clear: it ends. Period.
So, we’ve asked for a new judge (since the previous one has indeed retired) to provide for some amended findings. We have sighted numerous other cases in which Karon waivers were present. One case specifically stated that alimony would continue regardless of any event, and specifically waived all rights under the applicable statute, and in that case, alimony ultimately continued after numerous rounds in the courts – and well it should, it had specific language stating that it should. Another case we sited, contained a Karon waiver, but there was nothing explicitly saying that alimony should continue beyond the receiving party remarrying. And thus the court of appeals decided that indeed alimony ended when the receiver re-married.
At this point one would think that the facts requested by the court would have to do with the decree, or with the state statute, or any number of other relevant things. But a strange thing has come to pass, and I truly believe it is approaching judicial over-reach. The judge has made a very specific point to question arrears. The new judge is questioning why I have not payed all of the back-alimony from the previous judges (meddling decision). I’m at a loss to figure out why how much I am backed up on not paying a questionable alimony payment has to do with deciding the motion at hand. The new judge has a motion to amend the previous judge’s findings. That should be the judge’s focus. If/when the judge should decide to up-hold the previous judges findings, then the arrears question can be answered. But the arrears have nothing to do with the decision at hand. It seems to me that the judge should focus on the motion at hand, and whatever her decision is, we will comply with and work out the details. I’m good for the money, if in fact she deserves it in the eyes of the law. But I’ll take it to the court of appeals before I readily hand it over.
At this point, the arrears total in excess of $23k. That’s not something I just have laying around. I’ll take my licks later for not saving the money I saved when she got remarried and I stopped paying her. But fact is, I had bills to pay and things to catch up on. So I didn’t. The child support office began collecting her current “award” of $1500/month in addition to child support, and the 20% for arrears, so they are in the process of getting my payed up current. But what happens when the judge decides in my favor? How do I get those funds back from the grubber? Why is the judge so pre-occupied with what money had changed hands and when it will be right before actually deciding on the motion?
The grubber remains un-represented, and nearly $48,000 alimony remains in limbo. I just don’t understand how there is even a question here. There is a state statute that has not been waived or over-ridden in any way! It shouldn’t be in the courts jurisdiction to begin with. The retiring judge over-reached from the beginning by essentially legislating from the bench. What right did he have? Now I’m God knows how many hours in the hole to my legal team, and alimony shouldn’t have even been the issue.