Pay off the IRS and request they remove the lien (it does not happen automatically). Then you would essentially sue ex for contempt to extent he breached the divorce decree by not paying the back taxes.
My answer is not intended to be giving legal advice and this topic can be a complex area where the advice of a licensed attorney in your State should be obtained.
Since you don't have the funds to payoff the lien, you may want to consider an offer-in-compromise. And seeking innocent spouse relief may also be an option depending on the circumstances. If your ex is liable, don't overlook the approach of pursuing the ex to address the issue.
Evan A. Nielsen is licensed to practice law in California and handles federal tax matters throughout the U.S. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for a particular matter. This response does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult an attorney.
Unfortunately if the IRS can collect from you they are going to keep up collection action against you until the liability is paid in full or you reach a collection alternative. There are several options that may be available to you.
I offer a free consultation if you would like to discuss your different options.
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As you stated, the IRS does not look to the divorce decree to determine liability. Innocent spouse relief might be the best option for you as suggested. However, this option is only available under particular circumstances. I have found the IRS is very responsive to applications for innocent spouse relief in those situations where taxpayers meet the criteria.
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