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By December 10, 2015 9 Comments Read More →

Collecting Alimony From A Sociopath—The Devil’s In The Details

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Divorcing my sociopathic husband was horrific. Hopefully, what I’ve learned can spare you some pain and aggravation, but by the very nature of interacting with any sociopath, there will still be pain and aggravation.

Few Documents Can Stand Up to Intense, Constant, Malicious Scrutiny—But Do Your Best

My book Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned (available via Amazon.com) chronicles my corrosive marriage and my toxic divorce.  The book, however, does not delve into the specifics of my divorce agreement that provided the foundation for excessive post-divorce legal expense and litigation.

Other lawyers who reviewed my divorce agreement felt my attorney had done a good job.  But these attorneys also said that when you are up against someone who spends his or her time combing through the divorce decree trying to find any area of ambiguity, that no divorce lawyer or decree can stand up perfectly to that degree of malicious scrutiny and attack.  The devil is truly in the details. It’s important that you get a lawyer who understands sociopathic behavior, has dealt with this before and is sympathetic to your need to focus on details, details, details.

Here’s what I learned the hard way about alimony.

(I’m going to alter the specifics below, as I did in my book, so they don’t link up with my legal divorce document.)

Be Specific

As an example, let’s say my divorce agreement called for monthly alimony of $1,500/month for six years starting June 1st 2014.

Seems straight forward, right?  Wrong!

What’s Missing

When must the money be received?

Good question.  Most normal people would assume that since the money is owned monthly it needs to be paid each month.  But did my divorce degree actually specify that?  The answer for my divorce decree was “not quite.”  I’ve been to court over issues like this that seem straight forward, but when examined under a magnifying glass have the smallest bit of wiggle room.

For example, my ex-husband could argue that while the amount of money owed is $1,500/month that it does not say when it actually needs to be paid. Hence, he could argue that he just assumed that he could give me one lump sum at the end of each 12-month period:  $18,000 on May 31s 2015, $18,000 on May 31st 2016, etc.  Even worse, he could argue that he thought it was reasonable to just pay me one lump sum at the end of the six year period–$108,000.

When $1,000 Does Not Equal $1,000

Of course, for cash flow purposes (rent, utilities, food, etc.) I probably need money now—not a year from now; not six years from now.  Also, most of us have been taught or intuitively know that money now and money a year from now are not interchangeable.  If there is 2% inflation, for example, $1,500 received today is more valuable to me than $1,500 received a year from today, none the less six years from today.

For this reason, be careful about agreeing to a fixed amount of alimony for a long period of time, as that same monthly payment is far less valuable years in the future.

Also, if I can invest some of the money and it will grow at 5%/year, $1,000 invested today is worth $1,340 six years from now.  Hence, I want my money “now,” not at some future date.

Going To Court Is Expensive

To straighten out when the monthly alimony owed is actually paid, “Just take him to court!” you might say.  Okay, that makes sense, but here’s how that’s likely to play out.  If I take him to court, I’m likely to win and have the judge rule monthly payments are required.  Yet, because my ex-husband could argue that there was genuine ambiguity in the divorce degree, and, that based strictly on the words in the divorce decree he reasonably assumed that the amounts were just due once a year or in one lump sum at the end, then the court case is likely to be viewed as any valid disagreement between two people.  Hence, I won’t be awarded my attorney’s fees back, which are likely to be substantial.

Enforcement Options

My divorce decree did not specify how to enforce alimony payments.  Divorce laws and the ability to enforce alimony and child support vary state to state.  Before you agree to anything, find out what the rules are in your state. If a state agency will enforce the alimony (not all will, and for some states it depends on child support and possibly other factors) fill out the necessary paperwork immediately, as you can be almost guaranteed that any self-respecting sociopath will renege on child support and alimony, if possible, and use your fear of zero cash flow to bully you into making some meaningful financial concessions, beyond what you already made in your divorce agreement.

What Comprises Full Payment?

My ex has a lovely habit of trumping up things for which I owe him money and then deducts it from owed alimony or child support. With hindsight, I’d recommend that it be stated in your divorce decree that disagreement over other money is not to be deducted from alimony or child support.  The full amount is always owed. Failure to do so will cause the clause about penalties and legal fees being reimbursed to kick in. (But first you need to include such clauses.)

Penalties For Nonpayment

What happens if the alimony is not paid on time?  Is there a grace period?  Is there a penalty?  What is the penalty? Be specific.

How Does It All End?

Under what conditions does the alimony end early?  Remarriage?  Cohabitation (a marital-type relationship that does not involve a marriage license)?  A new job?  Substantial inheritance? Your death? Your ex-spouses death?

Think it through. Be specific.

If, for example, in your mind alimony is in exchange for some assets or benefits given your ex, why on earth should the alimony ever end early? If you had been planning on using some of the alimony for your children’s future, can you have a clause in your decree that funds (perhaps a percentage of remaining alimony owed) are still owed to your estate or to your beneficiaries in the event of your death?   If your divorce agreement is achieved via mediation, make sure you ask for what you need and want. You may not get it, but you definitely won’t get it if you don’t ask for it.

Renegotiations

Under what conditions can alimony be renegotiated?  Learn what the rules and policies are in your state.  Is alimony treated as any contractual agreement that is open to renegotiation at any time? Have your divorce agreement reflect what you want, not want will happen if you do not address this issue. Don’t assume your lawyer will tell you all the information you need to know.

Who Pays For Disputes Involving Alimony?

Even if you go to court to get the alimony promised, and the judge rules in your favor, you are now out the legal expenses involved.  So if you are owed $18,000 in alimony (that is income and is taxed, so it is really worth less to you after taxes are deducted) and your legal expenses to get the alimony are $20,000, is it worth going to court to get the alimony?  Keep in mind, in certain courts it’s very difficult to get legal expenses back.

Did my divorce degree specify that full legal, accounting and other relevant fees were owed back to me if I ever had to take my ex-spouse to court over alimony issues?  Nope!  But it could have.  It should have.

By the way, check with an accountant if this ever happens to you. (It’s possible that legal and other expenses spent “defending your income” (and alimony is income, as it is taxed as income) may be deductible on your taxes. (This is my understanding, but I am not an accountant, get professional advice.)

Does It Have To Be Considered Alimony?

Good question.  Not all future payments are alimony. By calling it alimony, however, it brands the money with certain legal and financial characteristics (e.g., potential for enforceability, taxability, possible tax deduction for legal expenses if you have to go to court to get alimony, etc.).  If possible, get advice from a lawyer, accountant, financial adviser, etc. to have your agreement fit your needs as much as possible

Spend Time to Think Through Vulnerabilities

If you’re divorcing a sociopath, it’s important to think about every way possible your soon-to-be sociopathic ex can undermine every sentence of the divorce agreement, including something that seems as straight forward as alimony.  Have a friend or family member help you.  A fresh perspective is invaluable. Don’t rush it.

All that is left after painful negotiations, mediation, etc. is words on a piece of paper. We know what we intended when we agreed to those words, but what does the document actually say and what does it not say?  Don’t agree to anything too quickly. Take time to find the grey area in the wording. Even where a comma is placed can matter.

Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.

I am neither a lawyer, accountant, financial adviser, etc.  The information offered above is my understanding and should never be acted upon without first consulting relevant professionals in the state in which you are getting divorced.



9 Comments on "Collecting Alimony From A Sociopath—The Devil’s In The Details"

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  1. Bev says:

    As per, such is life with and after a SP…

    Mind f***ing. That is what they do. Pick apart every little thing to find any loophole that they can.

    It’s hard to be a step ahead of them, but I guess you have to try.

    Thank you for the article.



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    • Bev you made me laugh reading your comment. The way you described being any way involved with a SP was so straight up and to the point and true! You’re right, it is hard to stay a step ahead of them. It drains your mind and your spirit. But we can stay ahead of them by educating ourselves. Wish you luck!



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  2. becomingstrong says:

    This is excellent advice. I’m in the middle of divorce proceedings and when my P saw I wasn’t going back to him to my life on Nightmare on Elm Street he stopped paying maintnence. Now my Orders read monthly payment and he has been making the Payne Fe bimonthly on the 1st and 15th. But now he stopped. However my judge said he has until the 30th of the ninth before the hammer comes down. But you are right get it all tidied up before. My spath has dragged this ordeal out. I’m going to use your advice if I ever get to final orders. In my case I’m set for a jury trial as my only recourse to be divorced. No settlement not even a feigned attempt at it. The fate of my family rests in the hands of strangers.



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  3. GP0071 says:

    It’s amazing how the desire for money comes above anything else. Here we have a person who chooses to maintain an unhealthy connection to a sociopath (assuming he really was one) in order to receive some easy money.

    You have the skills and the time to create and maintain a website. If you really wanted to be free from your ex, you could get a job, forget alimony, and cease this unhealthy dynamics with him.

    Most likely, however, you truly believe that you deserve and is entitled to alimony. You believe that your ex has a “debt” to you and that your “legal rights” to receive alimony are more than justified. Know, however, that every adult is responsible for his/her own decisions and, most likely, you are also responsible for the reality of your divorce. At the very least, you are responsible for the financial decisions you made (e.g., not working, or not pursuing a degree). To make another human being responsible for your financial life after divorce is beyond ridiculous. Fortunately, many woman now days have a sense of honor and refuse to embark on this blood sucking system called “alimony”.

    Whether you ex is truly a sociopath or not, I don’t know. However, don’t expect any human being (sociopath or not, your father, your sisters, your neighbors, or even yourself) to pay $1,800 per month to his/her ex for years and be happy about it. It’s just wrong and unfair.

    I feel sorry for the fact that you married a sociopath, but I feel no empathy at all for your dedication to get alimony. For a very brief period (6 months – 2 years) maybe I could understand it. Anything beyond that is just an abusive attempt for getting easy money.

    General advice for woman: Use alimony only if you *absolutely* have to (i.e., there is just no way that you could support yourself for now). If you do need it, use it for rehabilitative purposes only, just until you can get up on your own feet (two years is usually more than enough). Go back to school and get some qualifications, if you need to. The alternative is to start a litigation battle with your ex. In the process you will destroy yourself with the stress and completely annihilate any chance of having a collaborative relationship with him, which is critical if you have children.

    On that last point, if you do have children, you should view divorce as an opportunity to change the dynamics of the family. While you and your husband will no longer be married, you can still be a team (and maybe even friends) who support each other in raising the children. However, introduce alimony into the mix and your ex -will- feel exploited, which will ruin any chances of developing this new type of relationship. This is especially true when dealing with a sociopath.

    Regards,

    -GP



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    • GP – It looks to me like you have made critical comments before making yourself familiar with the facts. First of all, the author of this article is O.N. Ward. She does not maintain the website, I do.

      O.N. Ward was married to the sociopath for more than 20 years, and they had two children. He was a wealthy management consultant. He made it difficult of her to work, intentionally hid money, and did his best to destroy her.

      The point of this article is to point out how sociopaths will find loopholes in legal documents in order to avoid doing what they should do. It is a lesson anyone dealing with a sociopath needs to understand.



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    • AnnettePK says:

      GP,

      Would you share your experiences with a spath?



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  4. mj4one says:

    Wow.. I almost felt as if I were reading a text from my own SP.. from (assumably) sir GP.
    Regardless.. I am on here after a few years reading off and on and first wanted to say thank you for helping me take steps toward freedom.
    I am officially behind different walls.. though walls that we both own. Unfortunately, it is without any of my (4) children. Two of which were ripped from me by my first (non-wed) in the fall of last year, and now my younger two by my h. I am at a loss for what to do now. He is in ‘nice mode,’ and I find myself still catering to his ‘moods.’ I should file for support, but am afraid of the ax that will come when he receives those papers. He has already twisted and manipulated so much to have been award sole custody and myself supervised visitation.. with all 4.
    I don’t know if they are working together, I don’t know what to do about any of it. I have paid my last dollars to an attorney that works with child services and I don’t think truly believes me. She is also a guardian litem (sp?).
    If I muster the guts up to file to spousal support (I had thought that would all go together with child support, but not having my kiddos makes that not possible of course), do you have specific recommendations on how to do it right from the beginning?
    I so appreciate your wisdom.. it all hits home more than I can articulate right now.



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    • mj4one – Is there any way you can get your finances to work without spousal support? It will be a terrible battle, and even if you are awarded support, he will likely not pay it, or pay it late, or pay less than you were ordered. It will always be an ordeal. Plus it will cost you money you may not have in attorneys fees. If you can figure out a way to support yourself, it may be better.



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    • AnnettePK says:

      You might consider getting the best attorney possible to look after your interest. When it comes to legal proceedings, the results are often not just. Often, having a good attorney who understands spath disorders, enormously increases one’s chance of obtaining justice.



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