There’s a lot to look forward to once you can put your unhappy marriage and subsequent divorce behind you. The promises of new beginnings may have kept you strong and optimistic throughout this unpleasant process. While I encourage you to look forward to how your life will change for the better after the finalization of your divorce, it is important to remain aware of the ongoing costs you may face so you don’t end up feeling blindsided.
After your divorce is finalized, it’s likely you’ll have new guidelines to adhere to, whether they be court-ordered or part of a settlement. Below, I’ll outline several areas of post-divorce action one or both parties may be required to take. These rulings can be modified in certain future circumstances, which I’ll also discuss for anyone who believes the rulings may have been based on incomplete or outdated information.
If you’ve been ordered to pay child support, you’ll be required to pay your co-parent monthly. Child support is meant to ensure your kids have their necessities met, and the decision to order child support is based on how much ability each parent has to provide financially for the children. It takes into consideration any custody agreements, since the parent with primary custody will generally spend more on the everyday needs of the children simply because they are together most days.
If you’re the parent receiving child support every month, you are free to spend it on your children as you see fit. These payments are meant to cover your kids’ necessities, such as clothing, housing costs, and food, but there are no guidelines stipulating what percentage of each payment needs to go towards each category.
Another aspect of your divorce ruling that you should take care to heed is the custody arrangement. Many couples decide their own custody or parenting plan during their divorce, but this doesn’t mean it’s any less important to abide by these guidelines. Once the court has a custody arrangement on record, it can and will enforce the agreement, including imposing consequences on a parent who doesn’t follow it.
If you don’t agree with the court’s division of custody, you can always fight to modify it in the future. For now, don’t damage your case or your relationship with your children and their other parent by blatantly ignoring your custody agreement. Stick to it and enjoy your time with your kids as much as possible.
Spousal maintenance used to be widely known as alimony. It’s generally awarded when one spouse earns significantly more than the other or contributed more to the marriage financially. Here’s one common example: one spouse works full-time, while the other spouse stays home with the children. The homemaker of the family has given up his or her career to benefit the marriage but is faced with a lower earning potential post-divorce due to spending years out of the workforce. Spousal maintenance could be awarded in this scenario to allow both spouses to maintain a similar standard of living to the one they had in their marriage.
Most spousal maintenance is awarded fairly short-term; in the case of the example above, it may be paid by the working spouse to the homemaker only until he or she has had an opportunity to get back on a career path and is making enough to allow for a reasonable standard of living.
If you’re paying spousal maintenance, this is good news. You won’t have to make monthly payments forever! However, it is very important to pay monthly to avoid repercussions from the courts. If you are the person receiving maintenance payments, don’t get comfortable and complacent; post-divorce, make sure you’re doing everything in your power to make yourself financially self-sufficient before those payments stop coming your way.
Having court rulings modified
It is possible to have the court’s ruling on custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and other issues reexamined and altered if your circumstances have changed since the initial ruling. This is known as a post-decree motion. You can consider pursuing a post-decree motion under any of these circumstances:
- Your income has drastically decreased due to disability, losing a job, etc.
- Your ex-spouse is making more money
- In the case of custody, any number of factors has led you to believe your child would benefit from a different arrangement