Does an Ex-Wife Have Rights to Money Earned After a Divorce?

Ending the marriage may not end your spouse's claim on your money.

Ending the marriage may not end your spouse's claim on your money.

If your marriage has gone bust, you may want to sever all financial ties with your ex, but that may not be an option. Just as the law affects how you share the money the two of you make while you're married, it may give your spouse a share of your money after you split up. Judges apply general principles to your case based on the specific circumstances.


If the divorce court awards your spouse alimony -- also called spousal support payments -- the judge is saying yes, your ex does have a right to some of your money. Judges base alimony on a number of factors, including your income, your spouse's income and your former standard of living. If you make a six-figure salary and your spouse is minimum wage, alimony lets him afford some of the comforts he enjoyed in marriage. Alimony may expire at a specific date or a circumstance, such as your ex remarrying.

Earned in Marriage

Hiding income until after the divorce is final is a common tactic. You could do this by asking your boss to delay your next commission or raise until after you divorce, postponing business deals so the company looks less profitable than it is or not telling your wife you opened a new retirement account. As you earned the money during your marriage, your ex may be entitled to a share when she finds out about it. Your spouse may also have a claim on part of the retirement benefits you earned while married.

Child Support

Technically, child support is money for your kids, not for your ex. In practice, if your former spouse has sole custody, you'll be cutting him a check each month to help support the kids. Courts set child support based on formulas spelled out in state law. The formula considers what each of you earns, how much time you spend as caregiver, the child's needs and his standard of living before the divorce.


If you don't like how much you have to pay your ex, too bad: Court orders in a divorce are as binding as any other. Refuse to pay and you could wind up in jail, or watching your employer taking child support right out of your wages. If circumstances change -- you lose your job or become permanently disabled, for instance -- you can ask the judge to change the settlement. Even if your ex agrees with your request, the judge has to sign off on it.


About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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