Do the math before modifying alimony

            Posted on May 1, 2016 

Do the math before modifying alimony

Q. I’m paying my ex-wife combined alimony and child support. To my amazement, she got a guy – who I hear makes good money – to marry her and let her and our three kids move into his house.

Can I and should I seek to reduce my payments to her?

A. Usually alimony automatically stops when a payee remarries. Because you pay joint alimony and child support, you need to file a complaint for modification to wipe out the excess over the child support. That sounds good, right?

But don’t jump without looking. Get your lawyer to figure out how much you’d now have to pay in child support. If you’re now earning more money, your child support will go up.

Depending on the age of your children, you may get the judge to impute income to your ex on the theory that she could now go to work. That’s true even if she’s having a baby with her new hubby.

Once you’ve figured out the amount of nondeductible child support you’d now pay, figure out how much more you’d pay in income taxes. Then compare that number to what your net after tax would be if you did nothing. You don’t want to pay a lawyer to get you a modification that costs you more out of pocket than what you are paying now.

Your ex will probably file joint tax returns with her new hubby. She’ll then have to pay more in taxes since she’ll be in a higher tax bracket. But her hubby might pay those taxes. Or she might think she’s got a good deal because she’s still getting “her alimony”.

So if the numbers are right, just let the sleeping dog lie. And, to paraphrase Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”, “ ‘tis a far, far better thing than you’ve ever done before; and a far, far better way forward than you’ve ever known.”