Surprise! Ex-Wife Can’t Discharge Alimony Overpayment in Bankruptcy

January 5, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Can’t afford to pay your credit card bills? No problem, you can take yourself to bankruptcy court and see that pesky old debt discharged, likely for pennies on the dollar. Can’t afford to pay your ex the alimony the judge ordered? Tough luck, buddy. That’s a debt the bankruptcy court has no power over.

Never mind that you actually got something tangible from the credit card transaction. And never mind the fact that VISA or AMEX is left holding the bag for something you now own. And never mind that your ex is perfectly capable of working and earning but elects not to. And of course never mind the fact that she’s the one who walked out on you, not the other way around.

No, there’s no refuge from the debts an ex-husband and father owes his former wife. In the case of alimony and child support it’s pay up or go to jail.

But now this article tells us there’s a flip-side to that coin. It seems in California, an ex-wife was receiving the alimony the judge ordered her former husband to pay her, but she did a little something she wasn’t supposed to do. She moved in with her new boyfriend, a condition that both the law and the court’s order say put an end to the alimony payments. She, er, neglected to mention the fact, and went right along cashing his monthly checks. Some $46,000 later he went to court with evidence of her cohabitation and the court stopped the payments.

It also ordered her to pay the $46k back to him since she received it in violation of the order. Into the bargain, the court ordered her to pay his court costs and attorney fees.

So little Miss Goldbrick ran off to bankruptcy court seeking to have it erase the debt she owed her ex.

But what’s sauce for the goose turns out to be sauce for the gander. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that, since alimony indebtedness isn’t dischargeable in bankruptcy, neither is the requirement to repay an overpayment.

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally there seem to be consequences for lying to courts and violating their orders. Who knew?

Now of course the very concept of alimony is anachronistic. In a day in which women are becoming more highly educated than men and are fully capable of earning as much and certainly are able to earn their own way, it’s beyond absurd to require ex-husbands to continue supporting ex-wives long past their divorce.

Yes, there are some narrow exceptions to that rule. A spouse who’s too old or disabled to support him/herself may well make a legitimate moral claim on some meager continued income from a former spouse. Likewise, a spouse who’s taken time off work and needs a year or so to get back into the labor market, should be able to claim alimony for a brief period — say a year or two.

But beyond those exceptions, alimony should be taken off the law books and anyone receiving same (again subject to the exceptions mentioned), should cease forthwith.

The fact that alimony still exists strongly suggests a pro-wife bias on the part of lawmakers. Why wouldn’t laws have changed to fit the times in ways that everyone with a pulse is aware of? My guess is that there’s a simple answer to that question: women are still disinclined more than are men to work and earn. They’re still the lesser earner in the great majority of two-earner households and far more likely to be the one who doesn’t work in one-earner families.

So maintaining alimony laws on the books looks very much like a refusal by lawmakers to treat women like the fully autonomous adults they are or should be.

It therefore seems reasonable to predict that the more men who begin receiving alimony, the greater the probability that state legislatures will change laws on spousal support to make it more difficult to receive.

And guess what. Men are starting to do just that. See this article (Reuters, 12/24/13).

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.


#Alimony, #Spouse, #Bankruptcy, #Creditcard, #California, #cohabitation

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