Can a Divorced Wife Sue for More Alimony?

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Spousal support can change because of illness or injury.
Spousal support can change because of illness or injury. (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Alimony, sometimes called "spousal support," is money a husband pays to his former wife after a divorce. A wife receives alimony separate from child support and property division funds. Judges usually award alimony to recognize the disparity in earnings between a husband and wife and to give a woman who can't earn as much as her former husband a chance to get more education or training so she can earn more money in the long run. Under some circumstances, a divorced wife can sue her former husband for more alimony.

Fraud

A judge bases an alimony award on the couple's financial circumstances at the time of the divorce. If, after the divorce, a wife learns that her former husband misrepresented or lied about his earnings, and he actually earned more than he disclosed in the divorce proceedings, the divorced wife can sue to reopen the case and ask the judge to award more alimony based on her former husband's higher income.

Change in Education Program

Another time when a divorced wife can sue for more alimony involves education. A judge may award alimony for a specific period of time so a wife can get a college degree. If the wife enrolls in the degree program and then finds out it will take longer than anticipated to complete the program, she can reopen the case and ask the judge to award spousal support for a longer period of time to allow her to finish earning her degree.

Unemployment

If a divorced wife was employed when the divorce was granted, she expected to remain employed after the divorce but she loses her job while she is receiving alimony, she can file a motion to receive more spousal support based on her changed employment circumstances. If she voluntarily quits her job, a judge is unlikely to award additional alimony, because, in that instance, the wife caused her own unemployment.

Illness or Injury

A divorced wife can also sue for more alimony if she suffers an unanticipated illness or injury. If a judge awarded alimony based on the assumption that the wife would be able to earn her own income by working, and her health deteriorates so that she cannot work, she can file a motion to modify the spousal support award to a more appropriate amount and duration based on her changed circumstances.

When to Sue

Divorce laws vary by state, so a divorced wife who wishes to sue for more alimony should consult a matrimonial lawyer in the state where the divorce was granted and in her home state. In some states, support cannot be increased if the support order explicitly states that the order is not subject to modification. Generally speaking, spousal support cannot be increased or extended after the time for paying it ends, so it is important for a divorced wife to sue for more alimony while she is still receiving payments.

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