Q. My husband and I are both in our 60s. We met six years ago and are now happily married. We were both married previously; both marriages lasted more than 20 years. The problem I have is with his divorce agreement. He pays significant alimony to his ex-wife. We have managed our finances well so it doesn’t cause a hardship. We are financially stable but not well off. His only child is grown, married, and independent.
We’ve discussed this arrangement a few times over the years, and I said that I didn’t think the alimony was necessary. He gave her the house, and she’s now retired. My husband’s response to my comment was, “When we divorced I was making a lot more money than she was, and gee, I don’t even know where my divorce papers are anymore. . . . I think her lawyer screwed me over.” He shows no desire to change this arrangement and I have kept mum, figuring that this is his business, and there’s nothing that I can do about it.
Recently he mentioned anticipating his retirement, and I am glad he’s getting ready for it. I’ll continue to work as long as I can. When he retires, we’ll be cutting back financially, so I am wondering about the alimony situation. Is this a matter for a marriage counselor, a financial counselor, or both? I don’t want to wind up resentful in our golden years but I am not sure whether I ought to address this matter with him (again) or see if he addresses it when he’s ready to retire. Can you help?
A.“He shows no desire to change this arrangement. . .”
There’s your answer, right? He wants his ex to have access to this money.
Maybe he fears a change would cause serious conflict. Maybe he wants to be generous to the person who was by his side for two decades. Whatever the reason, it’s what makes him comfortable. You went into this marriage knowing that was part of the deal. It would help to start thinking of the alimony as a necessary expense.
I do think you and your husband should meet with a financial counselor to talk about how to cut back without becoming resentful. There might be other ways to find extra money. You also might learn how other couples manage expenses like alimony with their own financial needs. Get as much information as you can as a team.
It sounds like the alimony was calculated at a time when income was higher and that it is time to recalculate it according to what is needed/affordable in the present. For this, you will need a lawyer.
I wonder if some of this is resulting from the fact that he’ll get to retire soon and you’ll continue working. Maybe you’ve done the math and seen that you could stop working too, if only he’d renegotiate these terms.
Have you tried putting yourself in his ex-wife’s shoes? How would you feel if your ex-husband’s new wife was trying to cut your alimony because she “didn’t think the alimony was necessary”?
I understand that this affects your lives together, but it is not your decision. You expressed your point of view, and did so more than once. Let it go, permanently, unless he explicitly asks for your input at some point.
The ex-wife might have worked to put him through school or put her career on hold to raise their kids. Or she might have gone into the marriage with significantly more money than he did. My bet is the husband knows he should pay the alimony.
She’s in a partnership with her now-husband who is using their joined incomes to pay an outsider. If her husband retires and the alimony amount is not recalculated, it will be partly her income being delivered to someone she never obligated herself to pay for. She should at least find a lawyer to figure out what all of that means, and what can be done about it.
Why don’t you try to look at this from a new perspective. It sounds like you married a stand-up guy.