If your marriage has gone bust, you might want to sever all financial ties with your ex, but that might not be an option. Just as the law affects how you share the money the two of you made while you were married, it can also give your spouse a share of your money after you split up. Judges apply general principles to your case based on specific circumstances.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Generally, an ex-wife has no rights to money her spouse earns after a divorce. In the event the judge awards alimony or child support; however, she will be entitled to a portion of it.
You Might Receive Alimony
If the divorce court awards you alimony – sometimes called spousal support – the judge is effectively saying yes, you do have a right to some of your ex's money. Judges base alimony on a number of factors, including your income, your spouse's income and your former standard of living. If your ex earns a six-figure salary and you're paid minimum wage, alimony lets you afford some of the comforts you enjoyed during the marriage.
Alimony can end at a specific date or when a certain circumstance occurs, such as you remarrying.
Money Earned During the Marriage
Hiding income until after the divorce is final is a common tactic among battling spouses. Your ex could do this by asking his boss to delay his next commission or raise until after your divorce, postponing business deals so the company looks less profitable than it is or not telling you that he opened a new retirement account. You might be entitled to a share when you find out about it – some states might even let you "re-open" your divorce if it's years later.
You Might Receive Child Support
Technically, child support is money for your children, not for you. In practice, if you have primary custody, your ex will be cutting you a check each month to help support the children. Courts set child support based on formulas spelled out in state law. In many states, the formula considers what each of you earns, how much time you spend as caregiver, your child's needs and his standard of living before the divorce.
Court orders in a divorce are binding. If your ex refuses to pay any amount due you for whatever reason, he could end up in jail. A child support obligation can be – and often is – deducted directly from his wages. If circumstances change, however, such as that he loses his job or becomes permanently disabled, he can go back to court to ask the judge to change the order. Even if you agree with his request, the judge has to sign off on the amendment.
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.