Q. My Ex-wife has a brain injury. Recently she was pulled over and her license taken away. Her job involved significant driving so she is claiming she cannot work and has no means of supporting herself and now needs alimony. Because of her condition, I have our children almost all the time and she pays no child support. I don’t know how I can be expected to pay her alimony now that she says she can’t work and be solely responsible for our kids. I will need to get a second job to make ends meet and yet there are not enough hours in the day to take care of our kids and work two jobs.
Will a judge really order me to pay alimony in these circumstances?
- As you have probably known me to say in prior columns, alimony is still based on one person’s need and the other person’s ability to pay. If she has a need and you do not have an ability to pay while also being solely responsible for the basic needs of your children, she will be disappointed in the outcome.
Brain injury or not, your Ex has some responsibility here and should be encouraged to help herself – even if that means you have to ask the court to order her to help herself before ordering you to pay alimony. If it becomes clear that she is truly incapable of helping herself, you should ask the judge to appoint a Guardian to stand in her shoes in this action. In that way, the Guardian can take the necessary steps to seek alternate forms of income for your Ex which don’t involve your wallet. For example, if she was laid off because she no longer has a license, presumably she would qualify for unemployment compensation for a period of time. The unemployment will buy time necessary for her to undergo an evaluation to determine if she is fully disabled as defined by the Social Security Administration. If she is fully disabled, your Ex should qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. The nice thing about SSDI is there may be dependent payments in addition to the payments going directly to her which will help you support your children.
Before you raise these issues to a judge, you could offer to help her apply for unemployment and SSDI and suggest that both she and the children could benefit greatly from these resources. It may be she is desperate and doesn’t know how to ask for help. Depending on the nature of her brain injury, she may not be able to fill out the necessary forms herself. Extending an offer to help her might change the entire dynamic of your relationship. But, if not, you still have the option of asking the judge to either order her to do the paperwork or to appoint someone to do it for her if she turns you down.