I gave my ex-wife 50% of my wages as alimony to keep away from debt. She agreed to assist pay for my bills – however broke our settlement

Dear Moneyist,

I have an irrevocable judgment against me. The creditors wanted to pawn my wages, so I agreed to pay my ex-wife alimony equal to 50% of my wages so the creditors couldn’t pawn my wages. We live together as roommates.

The deal was that we would share the cost, but she refuses to pay any costs and is now hoarding all the money for herself. She contributes her social security benefits.

She’s still making over $2,000 a month. I owe money every month and have had to use credit cards to pay our bills. When I discuss my financial dilemma, she says that legally this is her money.

What can I do ? Can I go back to court and try to change the alimony percentage? I can’t go into debt anymore. I can’t ask her to leave the house because we’re both on the title. Please help.

The ex-husband & roommate

You can email The Moneyist with financial and ethical questions related to the coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear ex husband,

You risked a lot – and it didn’t pay off.

You’ve tried to trick the divorce court system to avoid debt, but your ex-wife decided she needed and/or deserved the money more and decided to keep the handsome amount of alimony. It’s a tough break.

Whether it was an agreement (on your part) or a verbal agreement between the two of you or not doesn’t matter. She is free to do whatever she wants with her upkeep.

With the help of your lawyer, you could go back to the divorce court and try to renegotiate your alimony. But you’ll have a lot to explain, and the court wouldn’t approve of your plan to avoid a lien on your income.

A reduction or change in alimony is usually given because of a change in circumstances – for example, if your wife has remarried or her income has increased significantly, or if your own income has fallen dramatically.

However, be careful when attempting to continue playing the system. For example, if you decided to retire early, that would not be a valid reason as you would have to undergo an involuntary change of circumstances.

Law firm Eiges & Orgel may have a possible solution: “True cohabitation – meaning that two partners are now living together and acting like married couples rather than occasionally sleeping over – may also mean the end of child support payments.”

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

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

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