I just received a complaint for modification from my ex looking to end alimony. He says because of the new alimony laws, he reached the time limit on his obligation. I read that if you have a 20-year marriage, he still has to pay. We were married for almost 20 years. He gave me the divorce papers the day before our anniversary and announced he was marrying his secretary.
I depend on that alimony and have structured my life so that I can meet my expenses, but I don’t have savings. I just have a modest house and will be able to collect on my teacher’s pension in a few years but I haven’t worked full time since our kids were born — I have a job share with another teacher. Our daughter had special needs and I had to be available. When she passed away two years ago, I didn’t have a real reason to change the job share I’ve had for over a decade.
Can he just end alimony?
These are very interesting facts that probably only impact a handful of people. Before the alimony reform act, we looked to the length of marriage to determine property division. The marital estate is divided as of the date of divorce, so the assumption was your length of marriage was based on the date of marriage until date of divorce. That is still the case for property division. However, under the alimony reform act, for alimony duration purposes, the length of marriage is calculated from the date of marriage until the date the summons is served in connection with the divorce.
People whose alimony orders predate the reform have encountered a number of unexpected situations the legislature did not anticipate. In fairness to you, the law at the time of your divorce should apply to the calculation of the length of marriage which would put you over the 20-year mark and would mean he only gets to modify his alimony upon his actual retirement, at which point he would have to show why he should be allowed to stop his alimony. If you Google and read Pierce versus Pierce that will give you some information on what he would have to show to end alimony.
He wants to apply this new definition to your 20-year-less-one-day marriage to save a few bucks. While I think you have a strong argument to apply the old definition, nothing is foolproof and judges have discretion. You could spend years and a ton of money litigating this point. Given you are each approaching retirement, I suggest you try to negotiate an alimony buyout. If you litigate and win now, he will only be back in a few years for round two. Figure out the number you can each live with now and move on.