Old 01-28-2013, 09:04 AM   #1
myrionomos
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A question of Law?

1. Background.

Wife A thinks she is happily married with children. Husband cheats, divorces A in favour of 2nd wife, B. A gets a substantial alimony award against her apparently wealthy former husband. He never pays, claiming hard times but he continues with a wealthy lifestyle.

Wife A is impoverished and lacks the money to sue. Wife B enjoys the good life and also has a couple of kids.

Husband then dies. Estate shows substantial assets proving he lied, so wife A claims successfully for the unpaid alimony on the basis that he had lied about his capacity to pay.

2 My question is: Would it be possible/plausible in the US for wife A to make such a claim against the estate of her deceased husband.?

3 Plot outline. It might make for an interesting plot, because when A was impoverished she took the desperate measure of capitalizing on her social contacts and established herself as a successful escort and later a madam with a stable of women. After she has won her alimony it is wife B who is now impoverished and wife A is in a position to offer her a way out of her dilemma!

The conflict between the two former wives is the driving theme of the story. However if the alimony claim isn't possible the plot idea would not work.
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Old 01-28-2013, 10:20 AM   #2
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In most States in U.S., so long as husband never obtained a court order modifying his alimony obligation, wife A is entitled to past due alimony upon husband's death. In many States, she would be entitled to interest, as well.

Edit. Unless the debt is secured by a life insurance policy or some other asset, it would be lower in priority than his secured debts. Secured creditors get paid first.
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Old 01-28-2013, 10:50 AM   #3
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Why set the story in the USA?
Set it wherever you are, maybe ?
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Old 01-28-2013, 12:26 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myrionomos View Post
The conflict between the two former wives is the driving theme of the story. However if the alimony claim isn't possible the plot idea would not work.
As you see, it is possible, but if husband and wife B are living the good life--not hiding the fact that he has plenty of money for alimony, then wife A would likely bring in lawyers long before the husband died. I promise you, in the US, being impoverish isn't going to keep wife A from suing--or having plenty of lawyers ready and willing to help her get that money--no payment due till they win and she gets what is owed her.
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Old 01-28-2013, 12:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3113 View Post
As you see, it is possible, but if husband and wife B are living the good life--not hiding the fact that he has plenty of money for alimony, then wife A would likely bring in lawyers long before the husband died. I promise you, in the US, being impoverish isn't going to keep wife A from suing--or having plenty of lawyers ready and willing to help her get that money--no payment due till they win and she gets what is owed her.
Minus the lawyers 40-60%, of course.
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Old 01-28-2013, 12:33 PM   #6
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Minus the lawyers 40-60%, of course.
Actually, the lawyer's fee could not be contingent in such a case. It would be an hourly fee, but the Husband (his estate) would be required to pay it on top of the past due alimony.
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:10 PM   #7
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In the USA, divorce court doesn't work as do other courts. If the wife is truly living in poverty, she can get legal help from the government. The legal help is not to aid the wife, but to prevent the government from having to pay to support the wife and children.
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Old 01-28-2013, 01:47 PM   #8
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In the USA, divorce court doesn't work as do other courts. If the wife is truly living in poverty, she can get legal help from the government. The legal help is not to aid the wife, but to prevent the government from having to pay to support the wife and children.
Not exactly. The State can step in and enforce a child support or alimony obligation if the recipient is receiving public assistance. In non IV-D cases, however, the State does not get involved. The party in arrears can be made to pay the recipient's fees if the Court finds that the obligor has a superior financial ability to pay, or the refusal to pay is in bad faith. There are more caveats, but that is the apparatus in a nutshell.
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TxRad View Post
Minus the lawyers 40-60%, of course.
Quote:
Originally Posted by soflabbwlvr View Post
Actually, the lawyer's fee could not be contingent in such a case. It would be an hourly fee, but the Husband (his estate) would be required to pay it on top of the past due alimony.
But of course! This is why the woman could sue even if she was impoverished. The lawyers would lick their lips and go after this case like hungry tigers. Even if the husband had very good lawyers himself, he'd have a hard time winning it.

Now, if he hid his money away very cleverly (Cayman Islands style) and only enjoyed it outside of the U.S. and discreetly, then when the wife consulted a lawyer they might tell her that it wouldn't be worth pursuing as evidence of his wealth would be hard to get.
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Old 01-29-2013, 02:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myrionomos View Post
Wife A is impoverished and lacks the money to sue. Wife B enjoys the good life and also has a couple of kids.

Husband then dies. Estate shows substantial assets proving he lied, so wife A claims successfully for the unpaid alimony on the basis that he had lied about his capacity to pay.
It is possible, even probable, that the State where Wife A lives will attach the husband's income tax return for unpaid child support.

The US has made a real effort to go after "dead-beat dads" by making attachment of tax returns easy and making tax records available to family courts.

One problem with your scenario is that collecting back child support is much harder once the child in question reaches their majority. There are a lot of dead-beat dads in the US and despite federal efforts to make collection and prosecution easier, the individual states don't have unlimited budgets; they tend to focus on cases where the children are still minors.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:59 AM   #11
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Thank you very much for your responses. I think that they will enable me to avoid any major problems.

Handley Page suggested I base the story someplace else. I may well do so but there is no denying that the major audience is in North America. American media strongly projects US cultural norms, and my own experience with stories located elsewhere is that American readers can be more surprised and put off by a story's 'foreignness' than one might expect.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weird Harold View Post
It is possible, even probable, that the State where Wife A lives will attach the husband's income tax return for unpaid child support.

The US has made a real effort to go after "dead-beat dads" by making attachment of tax returns easy and making tax records available to family courts.
This is true. However, the OP is talking about alimony, not child support. Moreover, after the first IRS intercept, a husband would merely underpay his taxes so that he has no refund to attach in subsequent years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Weird Harold View Post
One problem with your scenario is that collecting back child support is much harder once the child in question reaches their majority. There are a lot of dead-beat dads in the US and despite federal efforts to make collection and prosecution easier, the individual states don't have unlimited budgets; they tend to focus on cases where the children are still minors.
Again, the OP is talking about alimony. Nonetheless, except in IV-D cases, past due child support enforcement is a private remedy undertaken by the spouse who is owed the support. State resources are not utilized. A child reaching the age of majority affects neither the remedy nor the availability thereof. In cases where a spouse has undertaken a duty to provide post-majority support (i.e., support for a college student), the state may shift the burden of enforcement to the child, rather than the former spouse.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:54 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by myrionomos View Post
Thank you very much for your responses. I think that they will enable me to avoid any major problems.

Handley Page suggested I base the story someplace else. I may well do so but there is no denying that the major audience is in North America. American media strongly projects US cultural norms, and my own experience with stories located elsewhere is that American readers can be more surprised and put off by a story's 'foreignness' than one might expect.
Whether you choose to set your story in the US or elsewhere is entirely up to you. Keep in mind, however, that the discussion below addressed US law. If you take your story elsewhere, you may need to solicit opinions from your chosen forum.
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:12 AM   #14
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In most, but not necessarily all States:

Alimony is not like other debts, in that it isn't just a matter of him owing the money, or even that has been a court judgement; he also is under a court order to pay the alimony. In addition to being able to attach his property, garnish his wages, etc. (even bankruptcy won't relieve him of the alimony debt), she could bring an action for contempt. If a court were to determine that he could have paid, but didn't (the burden would be on him to prove that he couldn't), the court could order him jailed until a specified amount was paid, and then he could be jailed again if he failed to make whatever payments were ordered.

I agree about secured creditors being first in line.
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Old 01-29-2013, 12:17 PM   #15
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A guy that I worked with was divorced by his wife. She got custody of the kids and then ran off with some anus. The guy paid his child support, until his ex-wife ran and hid, probably due to the fact that the anus she was living with was wanted by the law. She left no forwarding address. The guy's child support check was returned. The local DA then took the guy to court for non-payment of child support.
The ex-wife failed and refused to allow the guy the court ordered visits wuith his children. The children were not going to school. None of the failures bothered the law.
The guy finally got his kids back and apparently went to Mexico. The law had no interest in pursuing him, since it would have cost the state money.
The state didn't care about the guy. The state didn't care about the kids. The state did care about the state having to support the kids.
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Old 01-29-2013, 01:05 PM   #16
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Sounds like an urban myth to suit a chosen perspective.
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Old 01-29-2013, 02:46 PM   #17
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Just set it in Texas and make the Husband buddies with the local DA.

The DA diverts the suits and holds off the law, until the husband dies in a, car crash, has a condom explode or???

Everybody will believe anything about Texas.
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