Income enhance does not have an effect on youngster help – Boston Herald

Q: When I got divorced nine years ago, I agreed to pay my ex-wife $200,000 a year in child support. Payments end if one of us dies or the court changes the order. At the time, I was making $650,000 a year.

Now I’m making over $3 million a year, which my ex-wife just found out. So, like the good professional shopper that seemed to be her day job during our marriage, my ex filed an amendment complaint, claiming that my higher income warranted a large increase in her alimony.

I don’t want to pay a cent more if I don’t have to. Must I? — SG, Falmouth

A: There are three reasons why you won’t have to pay more maintenance, and one reason that could be your light at the end of the tunnel.

First, for the past nine years, your ex has been living off ongoing child support payments. Second, you didn’t mention it, so I’m assuming there aren’t any material adverse changes in your circumstances.

Third, the basis for granting alimony is that one party’s income has increased at the expense of the spouse with less or no income. In the event of a divorce, the income of the spouse with the higher income is required to support the other spouse. And, if there is enough money to support the spouse in the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage.

In your case, the court will consider whether the $200,000 is still enough to allow your ex to live to the standard she had during the marriage. If so, she is not entitled to any part of your increased income because she did not help you earn that money. Although the judges have wide discretion, in these circumstances public order would not be served by essentially giving your ex a lifetime profit-sharing plan paid for out of your increased post-divorce income.

That light at the end of the tunnel could be turned on by what’s in the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act. The new law, which went into effect in 2013, requires judges to issue temporary support orders. However, if the marriage lasts more than 20 years, there is no specific limit. But when the payer reaches normal retirement age, the payer can request an end to child support payments. Therefore, in a very long marriage, the number of years of alimony payments can actually be quite short.

So you need to ask your solicitor if you can now apply for a reduction in your child support due to a time limit or other limitation.

If so, that would bring a smile to your face, wouldn’t it?

Gerald L. Nissenbaum has been a trial attorney in Boston since 1967 and focuses his practice on family law. Any legal advice in this section is of a general nature and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Send questions to dearjerry@bostonherald.com.

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