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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 117419
Experience:  Experienced attorney: Family law, Estate Law, SS Law etc.
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I was married short of 7 years. We married in Australia. I

Customer Question

I was married for just short of 7 years. We married in Australia. I started divorce proceedings (in CT Dec 2010) after I found out my wife had had an affair. The divorce took two years due to incompetence on the part of my first attorney and the death
of my second. My ex lived in the marital home throughout this period. I moved interstate. We have two young girls (now 7 and 11). For the two years I paid all her expenses, she had use of a car (which was not in the divorce agreement and she now refuses to
give back), my credit card and I gave her cash too. I would estimate she was getting 70% of my income during this period. We both now maintain separate houses in PA. I gave her $283k as part of our divorce agreement and swallowed all legal costs ($80k). We
rented the ex-marital home in CT because she declined to sell it. It was sold in June of this year. There was about a $15k loss which she was supposed to participate in (50:50) but she just gave me $980. I have 16 more months (of 4 years) alimony left to run
@45% of my income. About 40% of my income comes from a rental property in Australia (the purchase pre-dates the marriage). As an ex-pat (vis-à-vis the ATO) I get taxed at 32.5% on the first dollar of income. Putting as much money as possible into an Oz pension
brings that rate down to 17.5% so that's what I'm more or less forced to do. Because of the way foreign tax paid is classed by income type the rebate in the US is nothing like dollar for dollar so it's basically either put the money in a pension fund or lose
32.5% of it. As a consequence my ex is getting 80% of my net pay and I am living off my credit cards (now owing about $27k). My ex works 20-30 hours a week earning I guess around $400 per week. In the property she bought with the money I gave her she converted
a barn into a residence (I presume without planning permission) and her ex-brother-in-law, sister and nephew live there. They all came separately from Israel and I doubt if they have residence visa's (I believe she became the boys guardian and he goes to school
here - aged 17 or so). I believe that the two adults work so it's fair to assume that they are paying her rent. My ex also spends at least one night per week teaching English for cash. I cannot afford to engage a forensic accountant to check out her non-disclosed
income but also cannot afford to keep paying alimony at this level. I am 57 she is 46. In addition to maxing out my credit cards I have also resorted to pulling money from an IRA which has significant penalties. I'm really tired out by all the arguing and
unpleasantness of the last 10 years and am also on my knees financially as a result of legal expenses - it took another $5k to get the divorce agreement enforced re selling the ex-marital home in CT. I'd rather not do anything that will hurt the children (who
live with her) but I have to do something. In the light of many of the questionable items referenced about I do not believe that she will want to have a court involved.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

I have read everything you posted, but what is your specific question about this situation we can provide you information about? What specifically are you wanting to do without going back to court?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I guess my specific question is what can I do to get the level of alimony down? At this moment in time her legal income is probably 15-20% above mine and her undeclared income would push that figure closer to 50%. Her mother also comes over from Israel each year for about six months (whilst it's warm) so at the end of the day she has a full family living with her. I am getting desperate for cash and it's getting very tempting to significantly reduce what I'm paying her and see if she takes me to court. Is there a legal process that would be equally as effective in the light of the above facts?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply.

So what you are saying is there has been a significant change in financial circumstances since you entered the agreement?

Do you have proof of all of her income, including undeclared (such as witnesses maybe)?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Well she has a job which can be substantiated at $20k+/- pa. She has a family living with her who must be giving her money (that would be obvious to anyone who could bear witness to how much money she appears to have). I have no proof about the language tuition other than the word of myself and my daughters (who are hardly likely to testify against her). As I said 35-40% of my income comes from Australia since the divorce in Jan 2013 the AUD has declined by more than 30% against the USD. As I said she is getting 80% (or more) of my net pay (with me making no 401k contributions).
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply.

The only possible way (aside from the obvious of negotiating with her to come to another agreement, perhaps a lump sum buyout) to do this because there is an agreement, would be that there has been a significant change in financial circumstances since the agreement. The court would have to have actual proof of the change in circumstances, such as family sharing expenses with her and of course the economic decline of the AUD (which by itself is not generally enough to get the change). This is a very difficult case because this was an agreement and not an order decided by the court and the courts are much less likely to change or modify the agreement than they are a court decision.

However, if you can get proof of that unreported income, the court would indeed be likely willing to reduce or eliminate support.

Aside from this, the obvious is negotiate with her. Try to come up with some lump sum number you can manage to afford and she will agree to in order to terminate all of the support payments or a majority of them. If you can come up with such a number, you need to write up an agreement and both sign it and have it notarized and immediately file it with the court in the case, which would make it official.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It was hardly an 'agreement'. I brought 95% of assets to the marriage which I had spent my life making sacrifices to accumulate and with two young children and no lawyer willing to give me a straight answer to a straight question it was the low-risk route for me to take. An agreement is completely out of the question - I have spent the last four years realizing that she will honor nothing and pathologically lie throughout. From what you have said it seems if I can demonstrate that she has a family living with her that is proof enough of a change in circumstances. What happens if I reduce her alimony by 30% and she does take me to court? Will I be penalized or simply required to make up the deficit?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
FWIW she would fail a hair test for pot. She's smokes grass heavily - morning, noon and night.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply.

Her use of drugs is not going to be any issue other than you seeking to get a change in custody, in that case you could raise it as a grounds to seek to take the children and modify custody. Custody is a separate issue from support.

If you just reduce the support without court order, she would be able to file a motion for contempt and you would be not only made to pay what you owe in back support, but you would also need to pay her attorney's fees, costs and possibly some damages to her for being in contempt.

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