Alimony Is Tough on Women. Just Ask Mary J. Blige

Alimony Is Tough on Women. Just Ask Mary J. BligeIt’s fun to daydream about being a star: the lights, the glamour, the adoring fans. And sometimes, we admit, it’s fun to think about the money, too: houses around the world, parties with A-listers, the latest designer shoes or accessories. Everything about the celebrity lifestyle can seem so different than the lives so many of us lead.

But if we’ve learned anything, it’s that money and fame don’t make “everyday” troubles go away; they just make them more public, and usually more expensive. In a recent interview with iHeart Radio, Mary J. Blige revealed that she, herself, talked about her divorce from her former partner, Martin “Kendu” Isaacs. In the interview, Blige speaks about not having enough money to pay her rent when she had to pay alimony after her first divorce. According to her, Isaacs had spent most of her money, and when the divorce happened, she had no more money to give, forcing her to go on tour to fulfill her support obligations.

Per Yahoo News:

In 2017, Blige was ordered to pay $30,000 a month in alimony to her ex-husband. Originally, his lawyers requested quadruple the amount to help him sustain his lifestyle. Issacs claimed that he “has experienced physical manifestations of stress and emotional distress from this matter, which has caused him to become hospitalized.” The singer’s former manager further claimed that he had become “unemployable,” and without her financial support he would be “destitute” and paying rent has become “impossible.”

Blige is hardly alone. A significant number of “A-List” female celebrities have been ordered to pay alimony over the years. Jennifer Lopez had to pay Cris Judd about $14 million; Anna Faris payed close to a million to her first husband, Ben Indra. Former Spice Girl Mel B had to for her ex-husband’s legal fees, and an additional $40,000 in temporary alimony, a heart-breaking scenario given the allegations that she was a victim of domestic violence.

Nor is it just A-Listers who pay; in general, the number of women ordered to pay alimony has increased in recent years. MarketWatch reports that in a 2018 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), “Some 54% of the attorneys surveyed have seen an increase in mothers paying child support in the last three years, and 45% noticed an uptick in women paying alimony, AAML found.” This number correlates directly to the number of women who are now the breadwinners in their households. Once you become the person who makes the most money, you become the spouse most likely to be ordered to pay alimony.

What is alimony?

Alimony, sometimes called spousal support, can be a complicated topic, and oftentimes is misunderstood. By definition, alimony payments are “court-ordered payments awarded to a spouse or former spouse within a separation or divorce agreement. The reason for alimony is to provide financial support to the spouse who makes a lower income, or in some cases, no income at all.”

Maryland recognizes three types of alimony: Temporary, indefinite, and rehabilitative. Temporary alimony (pendente lite) has a short-term payment period, lasting as long as the divorce process takes to ensure both sides can negotiate fairly. Indefinite alimony is meant to support your former partner for the rest of their life (or until they get married again, if so designated) so that they can retain lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to. Rehabilitative alimony lasts until such a time that your former spouse can re-enter the workforce with a job that can sustain themselves and their lifestyle.

How does a judge decide who pays alimony?

There are several factors for a judge or mediator to look at when assessing alimony payments, including:

  • Does your spouse have the ability to support themselves financially?
  • How much time is needed for your alimony-seeking spouse to obtain sufficient training and education in order to become self-sufficient and employed?
  • What was the standard of living during your marriage?
  • How long were you and your spouse married?
  • How did your spouse contribute to the family, both financially and to the overall wellbeing of the household?
  • What were the circumstances that led to the divorce?
  • How old is each party?
  • How is the physical and mental wellbeing of each party?
  • Can the party who is paying the alimony support themselves while paying it?
  • Was there any sort of pre- or post-nuptial agreements made between the parties?
  • What are the financial needs and resources of both parties?

All of these are questions that the judge may consider when deciding how much you should pay for alimony, and these are also questions you should know the answers to so you can avoid the “sticker shock” of support payments. It is also a good reason to work with a Fulton divorce attorney. They can help you throughout the process, and make the complicated legal work simple.

What do I do if I do not have enough money to pay alimony?

So, what can you do if you are in Blige’s position, where you have been ordered to pay more than you can reasonably afford because of a loss of job or another life event? In some cases, you may be able to modify your alimony payments. If your alimony is modifiable, you will need to prove that you are unable to afford the current alimony payments by showing evidence of the change in your circumstances such as a termination letter, pay stubs, or bank account records.

However, if you do not file for alimony modification, there are consequences if you simply stop paying. You can face criminal charges for contempt of court. Your wages can be garnished, and your tax refunds seized. In some case, you could be reported to credit bureaus or a professional licensing agency, which can cost you your job. The reason? Because alimony is court-ordered, and if you fail to follow a court order, there will be consequences.

If you are getting a divorce and believe you will have to pay alimony, McCabe Russell, PA can help. Our Fulton alimony attorneys can help you negotiate for a more just and fair amount. If, later in life, you have difficulty paying alimony because of a life event, we can discuss your options for modification. Having to pay alimony can seem like a crushing weight, but there is help. Please call 443-917-3347 or fill out our contact form. McCabe Russell, PA, maintains offices in Fulton, Bethesda, Rockville, and Columbia.