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(I'm sorry about deleting and re-posting the question, there are family details and the site was attaching my real name. I'm reposting using an email address that isn't linked to me.)

My father was married to his wife for over 20 years and she recently started a divorce.

He retired after many years in a higher paying job, as he had always planned to do, to focus on his acreage and business. The pension is quite decent, more than most people get. However she pressured him to make more money anyway, and since their rural area has few good jobs, so he tried working away from home, which he hated. But he explained to me that he had to work, or she might leave him.

Suddenly she divorced him. So he stopped working a second job, which he only did to make her happy. Now she is using his one particular past income statement to "prove" to the judge that he CAN make more money, just because he worked a lot that year.

Furthermore, he's the primary caretaker of their daughter because the mom left without saying goodbye, and the mother is not pursuing custody in any way.

The judge has ordered him to pay half his entire income to the mom.

That means each of my dad and my sibling have a quarter of the income to take care of them, while the mom gets half. This seems wrong to me.

The mom is also doing things like hiring expensive lawyers, which he is unwilling to do because it's whittling away at their savings, so she might win.

The full court arguments will be in months. In the meantime the court ordered a huge payment (50% of all income monthly).

The judge ordered him to "get a job," because "everyone else does," but that seems wrong to me for a retired single parent.

1) What happens if my dad just can't, realistically, pay the huge interim amount that was awarded to the wife? (50% of his income) Also he can't really get loans because of a lien

2) Is my dad going to be forced to work in the long run? Should he just "accept it" and start taking loans for a lifetime of huge payments to his ex-wife who doesn't even look after the daughter?

3) Does the court care that his ex-wife was pressuring him to make more money and it made him miserable? If she divorced him literally because they couldn't agree about his work, it seems unfair for her to use the courts to get her way.

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    Why is he not pursuing custody in any way? He could probably get back child support payments, or, equivalently, have them subtracted from the alimony. It is not surprising that a pension is going to be split with the spouse who was in the marriage while the pension built up. Your dad's failure to match up with a lawyer (maybe not the most expensive) or to pursue formal custody suggests to me he is having some emotional issues that are clouding his judgment and may be very expensive in the long run. – Andrew Lazarus Aug 19 at 21:11
  • Maybe I was unclear... he has custody. He doesn't need to pursue it. The mom left both of them. She is the one who has not pursued. (I edited my wording so it's clear now). – WorriedAboutDad Aug 19 at 21:34
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    Then he should get a child support order. – Andrew Lazarus Aug 19 at 21:36
  • You are correct about his lack of a lawyer. He also (probably) would not pursue getting any money back from his ex-wife. He's very sensitive to her needs. He's just unwilling to leave his rural region for more money, and we're worried the judge might set the alimony based on a one-time income, when he hated his job. – WorriedAboutDad Aug 19 at 21:46
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    It depends on how the judge said it, to be honest - the judge can make any award they want, within reason, and the counter argument to that is "but that leaves me with less than I need to live on", to which the judge can easily respond "then get a job, thats what everyone else does when they cant make ends meet". Your father needs a proper lawyer who will fight his corner - his ex-wife seems to have no more feelings for him, so he needs to act in a similar manner and fight back. Unfortunately, being retired is not a right, its a privilege :/ – user4210 Aug 20 at 0:48
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I am going to convert a set of comments into an answer. Please note, IANAL, especially in your jurisdiction.

You are asking the wrong question. The Court is not specifically ordering your father to make more money; it is ordering him to support his ex-wife (XW) at a level similar to what she enjoyed during the 20-year marriage. This is not outlandish. In fact, it would be typical of a divorce in the old days, when the mother (1) was likely to have custody of any minor children and (2) was likely to have not worked outside the home, at least, not in a high-skill job. It's less typical today, since these conditions are less common now. He can do this by continuing to work to make more money, or by giving her most of his pension, or by selling off his land, etc. How is his issue.

However, your father is making no attempt to improve his situation, and as I will discuss below, this doesn't seem unprecedented.

  • Even though XW has hired an attorney, he has not, using the excuse it is too expensive—while the XW’s capable attorney takes him to the cleaners. Penny wise pound foolish. This is a serious error.
  • He has not entered into a formal custody arrangement. XW could appear at any time demanding at least half-time custody, for whatever reason. This is a serious error.
  • He has taken on unofficial sole custody of the minor child (your half-sister, I suppose), without asking for child support, even though this would substantially offset the alimony to XW. He could probably get this even before the full court hearing, although, again, IANAL, and he needs a local lawyer to handle such a petition. This is a very serious error.
  • He allowed XW to present what you feel is an unrealistic picture of his income based on his second job. Now, depending on your father's age, maybe lowering the standard of living and retiring on a pension is unrealistic. But did your father make any attempt to show that XW had worked before or during the marriage or had marketable skills? At least in some jurisdictions, alimony would be reduced by what the Court feels XW should contribute to her own upkeep. Since she isn't taking care of children, she can't use them as an excuse to stay home. This is a serious error.
  • He could also explain that since he was now in charge of the minor child, it was unfair to ask him to work far from home (more common with the sexes reversed, but not unheard of). Did he introduce a more complete income history showing that the second job was recent, intended to be temporary, away from home, and he detested it? Or did he just let XW bring in her version, unopposed? A lawyer would have introduced this argument if it is valid where you live. This is a serious error, that must be remedied before the final hearing.

My first thought was that your father is still in shock from XW leaving him and petitioning for divorce, but on re-reading your description of why he took the second job, frankly, he seems to arrange his life to get pushed around and then whine about it. You need not indulge this. Tell him to get a divorce lawyer, not go around looking for someone to sympathize over the bad deal he got after "saving" money representing himself.

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