Can for court force me to pay alimony till my ex dies?
Can the court force me to pay alimony till my ex dies? The short answer is yes. The court can force you to pay alimony till your ex dies or remarries. This is called life long alimony and fewer and fewer judges are ordering life long alimony but it still does happen. Usually, the court can force you to pay alimony till your ex dies if it was a long term marriage, longer than a decade usually and if your ex has some sort of handicap or impediment that prevents him or her from working – for example chronic illness.
These days though, it is highly unusual for a court to order life long alimony when both parties are able-bodied and can re-enter the workforce. It is also highly unlikely to be an issue in a marriage with modest financial resources. In other words, for the court to order you to pay lifelong alimony it would usually signify that you are in a high networth situation.
Sometimes, even in high networth situations, there are changed circumstances. For example, a leading actor who is used to bringing in millions of dollars per year from high grossing movies could find himself out of work for many years and thus unable to pay his wife 34K per month in alimony. Under these circumstances, it is possible to go back to court and ask the judge to revisit the issue and get what is called a down-ward modification due to changed circumstances.
Judges are not always persuaded, however, that a downward modification is warranted after ordering life-long alimony. It can become a very stressful thing for the spouse who has to pay because it is like you are a bank for this person who may hate you or you them. It is not unheard of that people have resorted to violence against their ex or themselves in this situation. It is also not totally unreasonable for the paying spouse to feel like he or she is being “punished.” If you think about it, marriage is a contract and divorce is a kind of breach. So there should be some sort of compensatory damages. But not punitive damages because contract law is fundamentally not meant to be punitive unless there are egregious circumstances. But by forcing a spouse to pay alimony till death to an ex who is capable of working, it can be argued that this is “punitive” in at least some cases.
Be that as it may, the judge is the final arbiter of what is fair in the divorce proceeding and the judge can order you to pay life long alimony to your spouse. The judge can force you to pay alimony till your ex dies, in other words and there is not much that you or your attorney will be able to do to change that unless you truly have grounds for a down-ward modification.