What If Your Ex Refuses to Get a Job to Keep Spousal Support?

If your former spouse refuses to get a job – and you’re ordered to pay alimony –  it can make you feel like you’re being taken advantage of. After all, if they could work and earn an income, why should you be the one to foot the bill for their lifestyle? 

To overcome this challenge, you may need to provide the court with evidence that your spouse is refusing to work in order to keep your spousal support payments. It won’t be easy, but there are things you can try to make the situation feel more fair.

First, though, let’s take a look at the types of spousal support that exist and how the court may have arrived at their spousal support order in the first place.

The terms “spousal support” and “alimony” refer to the same thing: money awarded by the court to one spouse at the cost of the other. Your state may use the term alimony, spousal support, or spousal maintenance to describe it.

Four types of spousal support

Spousal support is typically awarded when one spouse has been financially dependent on the other during the marriage or separation. It is meant to help the dependent spouse maintain their standard of living until they can become self-sufficient.

Several forms of spousal support may be awarded: temporary alimony, permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and lump sum alimony.

Temporary alimony

This type of alimony is typically awarded for a short period while a divorce is pending or after it has been finalized. It exists only until a permanent arrangement can be established. For example, you may be ordered to pay temporary spousal support to cover your ex’s attorney fees so the court can ensure fair legal representation for each party.

Permanent alimony

Permanent alimony generally lasts until one spouse dies or the remarriage of the other spouse. This is usually only available after long-term marriages of 15 years or more.

Rehabilitative alimony

Rehabilitative alimony may be granted to help a financially dependent spouse become self-sufficient through job training, college courses, or other educational programs. For example, you may be ordered to pay temporary alimony for three months after divorce to give your spouse time to find a job.

Lump sum alimony

Lump sum payments are sometimes made as part of an overall settlement agreement rather than ongoing periodic payments being made over time. This can be used for any type of alimony and any length of marriage.

How spousal support is determined

The court looks at the following factors when determining an alimony amount:

Length of the marriage

Generally, longer marriages result in higher awards since more resources were shared over a longer period of time. A longer amount of time spent as a couple may make it more difficult for one party to become self-supporting. 

In that same vein, marriage for a shorter length of time often results in lower support amounts since there was less reliance on shared resources during the union.

Financial need and ability

The court will consider how much money each partner makes to determine how much money would be needed for the lower-earning spouse to live comfortably. The court will then weigh this against how much money the paying spouse can afford to pay.

Age and health

The court will decide whether age or health issues should factor into its decision by looking at both parties’ life expectancies and assessing whether certain medical conditions affect either party’s ability to work.

Contributions during marriage

The court will evaluate what assets each partner brought to the marriage as well as what each did during their union (employment, childcare, household duties, etc.). This helps assess whether either party contributed more than the other, warranting higher payments to a recipient spouse.

Standard of living

The court will consider the kind of lifestyle each spouse was accustomed to prior to divorce proceedings so no one is left worse off than before due to changes in circumstances brought about by the dissolution of marriage.

Fighting an alimony ruling in court

If your spouse refuses to work when they could and you're required to pay them alimony because they don't have an income, you can fight this in court. Be prepared to provide evidence that your ex can actually work and support themselves.


Consider Eric and Linda. Eric was the primary income earner during their 10-year marriage, but Linda worked for the first few years, until the couple had their first child. She was a trained accountant with an advanced degree. In their divorce process, the court ordered Eric to pay Linda alimony each month for one year to help Linda secure a job and get back on her feet. 

Linda refused to even look for work and, after the year was up, asked the court to continue her alimony. Eric came to the hearing prepared with evidence showing that Linda did not apply for a single job during the year or attend continuing education classes to refresh her skills.

What the judge might do

The judge may deny Linda’s request for continued payments. Or, they may grant her just a few more months before completely ending the alimony payments. This scenario is not unique. In fact, it happens every day with slightly different facts and circumstances.

Advice from an attorney

When faced with a situation like this, it may be helpful to get legal advice from an attorney. Hello Divorce offers flat-rate legal coaching without the typical retainer fee charged by divorce attorneys. 

Want to learn more? We offer free 15-minute phone calls where you can speak with one of our team members, ask questions about your divorce case, and get more information about what we can do to help with your divorce-related concerns.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.