Everything was going along fine after the divorce.  You were making your alimony and child suppport payments but then along came the next corporate downsizing and you were out of a job.

What to do?

The first thing to realize is that this is not an unusual situation, especially in this sputtering economy.  But that doesn't mean you can ignore it.

Once you have your wits about you, it's time to sit down and carefully examine the divorce documents that were approved by the court. Make sure you know exactly what your legal obligations are.  

Like so many things, much will depend on where you live.  Some states, like Massachusetts, are notorious for awarding lifetime alimony even in cases where both spouses are gainfully employed, says Jon Hood, J.D., writing at divorce site Splitstown.   

No matter what your domicile, as they call it, the most likely best bet is to petition the court for relief -- ask the judge for mercy, in other words.

Your ex-spouse may complain loudly but if you are truly unable to make the payments, that will most likely be the least of your concerns.

You may also be able to show that your ex-spouse no longer needs as much support as he or she did at the time the divorce was granted.  If the former spouse has remarried or is living with someone else, this may also be a point in your favor.

As always, it's important to have an attorney to help you.  Obviously, if you are out of work and down on your luck, you will probably not be able to afford a four-star celebrity lawyer but there are other options.

Some public agencies offer civil representation and many law schools have clinics where eager soon-to-be lawyers will represent you, either free or at a vastly reduced rate.  It's like a barber's college without the sharp instruments. 

Whatever you do, experts advise against simply fleeing the state.  The long arm of the law will eventually find you and fleece you senseless.



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