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Alimony issues: Differentiating between paying alimony or bills

Divorced couples from Texas often have to deal with many lasting efforts from the divorce, including child custody, child support and alimony. Some ex-spouses avoid paying spousal support, since they feel it is unnecessary to continue to support the former spouse after the marriage is over. Some spouses, on the other hand, dutifully pay the alimony on top of the ex-spouse's other household bills, including the mortgage. They then come across situations where they can't pay the alimony, creating issues with the court.

Why do some spouses go above and beyond to pay their ex-spouse's bills even after the divorce has been finalized? Typically, it's because children are involved. An ex-spouse may have custody of the children and despite receiving alimony payments, still miss mortgage payments. Some spouses may pay these mortgage payments so the children avoid having to live on the streets if the house is foreclosed upon.

The problem with this situation is that alimony is court-ordered. Anything given to an ex-spouse beyond that is considered a gift. That means that money for a mortgage payment cannot be given in place of an alimony payment. The spouse that receives the alimony must spend the money appropriately. If the house ends up in foreclosure, it's not the ex-spouse's problem.

There is something that can be done, though, to protect the children. If the ex-spouse's home ends up being foreclosed, the other spouse can file a complaint. He or she can seek physical custody of the children. On top of that, an alimony modification may be filed to reduce the alimony payments. The ex-spouse will then end up being the one paying child support.

Alimony issues can be complicated, especially if the payer is paying other bills for the ex-spouse as well. It's best to follow court orders and keep gifts to a minimum.


Source: 
Boston Herald, "Paying ex's bills doesn't excuse alimony" Gerald Nissenbaum, Nov. 17, 2013

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