What if I cannot afford to pay the spousal support that I agreed to?

UPDATED: May 23, 2011

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What if I cannot afford to pay the spousal support that I agreed to?

Divorced 3 years ago; 5 years left on spousal support agreement. Court does not retain jurisdiction and ex-wife not willing to renegotiate. Was making $160,000 when divorced, lost my job, making $90,000 now. Ex-wife still getting $4500 per month; I now take home $800 per month. Could quit my job, pay off home with money from retirement and live off the money left over. What are the legal consequences if I do this?

Asked on May 23, 2011 under Family Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The consequences is that your ex-spouse could sue you for the money you owe her; she would likely, if you simply stopped paying, win and obtain a judmgent, which she could then look to enforce in various ways--garnishing a bank account, lien on home, executing on property, etc. Bankruptcy would not discharge this debt, so you'd be stuck with that consequence.

Even if the court has not retained jurisdiction, you may still bring a legal action to reduce your obligation, based on a demonstrable change in circumstances due to events beyond your control. You should speak with a divorce or family law attorney to explore this option. It's not certain you'd be able to do this, but it's well worth pursuing. Good luck.

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