One attorney says yes, one says no


I have ask this question of two attorneys. One said yes it could be modified , one said no. I have no more money to pay consultaion fees. Would you kindly give me your opinion with me realizing it is just an opinion? Here is the situation…
I have a mediation settlement which was also signed by a judge. (Incorporated?)
I was the dependant spouse and came from a long term marriage of 25 years.
Before signing I thought I could draw disability from my husbands work record. In the end I was told by SS that I could not unless he were deceased. I then applyed under my name but was ineligable due to the fact I had not worked during my long term marriage and was not disabled when i did work before the marriage.
Had I have known this would or could happen I would not have agreed to the minimal amount for alimony or the time frame. He could very well have afforded much, much more with his income being in the range of $160,000.00 per year. Add to my bad advice that I could draw from his work record, my disabilities, the medication I had taken on the day of settlement and lack of good reprentation… I signed.
My settlement papers read:
2. In full and final satisfaction of all claims that are pending before the court and in particular, woman’s claim for spousal support and the cross claims for equitable distribution, man and woman agree as follows:
3. Man shall pay to woman as alimony the sum of $500.00 per month as alimony to woman beginning January 15, 2009 and continuing on or before the last day of each succeeding calendar month until the death of man or woman, the remarriage of woman, cohabitation by woman with someone not related by marriage or passage of 24 months, whichever shall occur first. The alimony shall be deductible to man and includable to woman as income for tax purposes.
I have put in several applications for employment despite my disabilities and without disclosing my disabilities but have yet to find a job. So now I am living well below poverty level.
The first attorney said if I tried to regain my lifestyle and was unsucessful after about another year and then my lifestyle was not in the range of what it was during the marriage then I could take him back to have it modified due to the fact I was unaware I couldn’t draw disability and did not know that when I signed. Also the fact I was on medication at the signing.
The second said “I can’t help you.” And rushed me out of his office as he was running behind in his schedule.
Would you give this concideration and then give me your opinion.
I thank you.


A mediation agreement that was signed by a judge is modifiable as the judge’s signature makes the agreement an order of the court. Based on the facts you list, I do not think the alimony is modifiable, as the circumstances have not changed from what they were when you entered the agreement. The knowledge ( or lack thereof) you had when you signed does not constitute a change in circumstances.


Does the fact that I have not been able to gain employment, due to my age and lack of experience, which was unforeseeable at that time, constitute a change in circumstance? Or the fact I cannot draw SS disability? Which was unforeseeable at that time.
What I really, truly want is to be self sufficent. But if I can’t become self sufficent then I do not know what I am going to do. It is to the point that I have had to apply for food stamps. Which is a little more than embarassing.
What does constitute a change in circumstance?


No, since you were not working or receiving social security at the time of the agreement, and are still not working, no change has occurred.


What exactly does constitute a change if none of this applies. How about the change from comfortable to ending up on food stamps?


A change in circumstances is usually an involuntary and substantial reduction in income, or a serious health problem which develops after the entry of the order on alimony.


So the fact that I have never been on food stamps in my life but am now does not constitute a substanial change of circumstance?


Based on the facts you listed your income and earning ability have not changed since the time you entered into the agreement.


My amount of available money has changed in the fact that I had $20,000.00 in savings that I was using to live off of at the time of signing. I thought that I would have a job before that money ran out. But the money ran out and i still have not located a job. That is how I ended up on food stamps. I do not understand how this is not a change? Can you explain please?


BUT your circumstances haven’t changed from when you signed the agreement. You were unemployed at the time, and you are still unemployed. The fact that you had 20K in savings is irrelevent as far as the law goes.

You signed on assumption, and unfortunately, that assumption hasn’t panned out yet. I’m sorry.

Unfortunately, when alimony is involved. It’s usually the dependent spouse that suffers ‘standard of living’ blows. SAHM’s get it the worse.
I’m surprised the term of alimony was only 24 months. In a long term marriage like yours, 1/2 the term of the marriage is common. Did you have a lawyer when you were negotiating your agreements?


The attorney is right. Stay at home moms do suffer the worst in a divorce although no one ever gives an answer for it.

Maybe this information can help you. I’m not sure why you cannot draw disability off of your ex-husband’s social security. SS does provide some benefits to a divorced spouse. From what I understand, if you are 50 and disabled and were in a marriage over 10 years, you should be able to draw disability. Check out the SS site. Go to the local SS office in your area and fill out the forms!

You should also try to somehow get an extension of the alimony. You got a raw, raw deal in your agreement.


Remember that she signed an agreement. It is binding. The courts do not care that you were ignorant of the law or rules or chose not to get a lawyer or just wanted out or were ill advised by the opposing lawyer /friends / family or whatever reason it may be. If you sign the agreement, you are saying you understand what the agreement is saying and that you’ll abide by it. You have to go through many legal channels (and time, money, stress) to try to change a signed agreement.

I know some folks can’t afford a lawyer. I was there. I borrowed from 2 credit cards to pay for my lawyer and although it put me into debt for several years, it was a debt I HAD to have to get the expertise of a lawyer. I have preached and preached on this site not to EVER sign ANYTHING that you are not willing to live with. You can’t predict the future (death, illness, joblessness, disability). If you don’t think something is fair, DON’T SIGN.


I did file for disability off my ex’s work record but the ss office called me and stated I must be 62 years old or him deceased.
Also, yes I payed one attorney and he paid one but it is my opinion that he had two attorneys and I had none. If you get what I’m saying. Small town = small town politics. Yeah, I got a really bad deal but seemed they were all looking out for the one who has been a repeat for bussiness. He is on wife #3 and that was his family attorney. They employ him ALOT!
I have since been diagnosed with bipolar but I don’t think that means anything since I was just diagnosed. I mean I think I already had it I don’t think it just developed?
Thanks to ya ll for seemingly understanding. That in itself helps.


I just realized the attorney didn’t respond to my last question yet?


Your income and earning ability have not changed. At the time of the agreement savings you had should not have been a factor in your monthly need and ability to meet those needs. I realize that you are in a tough situation, however my opinion of the law as applied to these facts is that this case is not a modification case.


It has been months now and i have applied for many many jobs, went to several interviews and still have not attained employment. His attorney ask me if i had applied for a job before mediation. I had not. Now that i have is that not a change in circumstances? Could this be grounds for modification? I had absolutely no idea i wouldn’t be able to get a job.


No, the circumstances of your case have not changed. You were unemployed then and are unemployed now.


I have tried for months to find a job in my field. I have got to take whatever I can find at this point. I do not like being on food stamps. If I apply for and can get one making a much less amount than I thought I could, and i work but cannot come close to my standard of living during my longterm marriage then can I go back to modify or is there just no hope?


I understand your situation is difficult, but again it does not change my opinion of how the law would be applied to these facts. I do not see grounds for a modification.


He just got a huge raise. Is that grounds? If none of this is then I really do not understand how anyone ever gets their alimony increased or decreased?
Its not that i am not trying to change my poverty situation on my on. I am still trying to find work even though I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar.