Will I Lose My Alimony If I Go Back to Work?
With the dramatic cost of childcare in the U.S. (estimated to be $11,666 per year) and our country’s less-than-stellar family-friendly labor laws, it’s understandable that 26% of women aren’t in the workforce. However, that decision could hurt women dramatically when it comes to divorce. If one partner dramatically out earns the other (often the husband), the wealthier partner can be ordered by a judge to pay alimony to the other. Alimony can also be negotiated as part of a divorce settlement in mediation. Obtaining alimony can help relieve at least some of your financial burden after a divorce, but what will happen to that steady check in the mail if you decide to go back to work?
What Happens When You Go Back to Work?
In a nutshell, as soon as you begin earning income, your ex-spouse can file a motion with a court and argue that you no longer need his alimony checks. He can ask a judge to either eliminate his alimony obligation or to lower it. Depending on how much you earn at your new job, a judge may agree with this argument, and you could lose all or some of your alimony. Ouch!
Should You Stay Out of the Workforce?
This situation would seem to argue quite forcefully against you putting on your high heels, packing up your briefcase, and hitting the job market. After all, why would you want to give up a monthly check for a grinding 9-to-5 day job? Well, there are actually some good reasons why you should try to get a job after your divorce.
Alimony Is Often Temporary
These days, judges are more likely to order alimony for a specific amount of time. This is especially true if you weren’t married to your husband for a long time (typically less than ten years) and if you have strong job skills that will make it easy for you to re-enter the working world. While you are receiving alimony is a good time to look for a job you really like and that pays well, rather than wait until the funding dries up and be forced take the first position that comes your way.
Alimony Is Not Always Reliable
Just because a judge orders your ex to pay alimony doesn’t mean that he’s going to do it. He may decide not to make payments out of spite, or he could hit roadblocks in his own life. What happens if he loses his job, faces an expensive medical emergency, or even dies? Relying on someone else for your primary funds is inherently risky.
If you know that your alimony payments aren’t going to continue forever, then don’t wait for the money to dry up. Use this time to brush up on your job skills. (Consider going back to school , you may even be able to negotiate school costs in your divorce settlement.) True, you’ll have to work harder for your money, and you might even earn less than what you’d get in alimony, but you’ll get something more than a paycheck. You’ll also earn the security and pride of becoming self-reliant.
At the end of the day, the choice to re-enter the workforce is highly personal. If you have young children at home or are dealing with health issues, you may not be able to tackle a full time job. However, don’t let the fear of losing out on alimony stop you from at least considering polishing up your resume and making your professional mark on the world!
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This article is reprinted with permission from the Women's Institute for Financial Education (WIFE.org), creator of the Second Saturday Divorce Workshops. Founded in 1988, WIFE is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial education for women. Copyright 2019