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Modifying a Spousal Support Agreement After a Divorce

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By Lonnie Nelson
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What is the process for modifying a spousal support agreement

A spouse’s financial circumstances aren’t likely to stay the same after a divorce. Whether the change is due to a new job, retirement, or something else, you can petition the court for a modification.

The court will consider your request and may lower or change your spousal support agreement. To avoid future legal trouble, you should file the petition to modify as soon as your situation changes.

Modify spousal support based on a change in circumstances

A change in circumstances that either reduces or increases a spouse’s income can lead to a modification of spousal support. However, there are some stipulations that must be met for this to happen.

A major change in circumstances could include a sudden financial hardship or a substantial increase or decrease in a paying spouse’s income. This is true whether the spousal support was set by an agreement between the two parties or ordered by the court in a divorce proceeding.

The change in circumstances must be involuntary to qualify for a spousal support modification. Spouses typically submit evidence to judges through a petition for modification. This process can get complicated and it is essential to work with a Pasadena family law attorney to help ensure that the case meets all of the legal requirements for a spousal support modification.

For example, if an ex-spouse decides to quit their job and take a lower-paying position in order to reduce their spousal support payments, this is considered a voluntary change in circumstance and is not valid grounds for a modification. Also, retirement is generally not a significant change in circumstance that would justify an increase or decrease in payments.

Modify spousal support based on a change in income

Whether you are receiving or paying temporary spousal support, your situation may change. Changing circumstances are one of the few reasons that can justify a modification in your alimony agreement. In order to request a change in your spousal support, you must file a motion with the court. The Court will then take into consideration your new circumstances, including any significant changes in income.

The specific amount of spousal support that you are obligated to pay in your divorce decree or settlement agreement will be set by the judge. That alimony will continue until the date that is specified in your decree or order of legal separation.

However, the amount of spousal support you pay or receive may be modified at some point in the future. The process for requesting a change in spousal support depends on the type of alimony you have and the specific language of your settlement agreement or divorce decree. Our New York spousal support attorneys can help you file a petition for a change in alimony.

Modify spousal support based on a change in employment

The amount of spousal support you must pay or receive changes depending on the circumstances surrounding your divorce. If you want to change an existing order of alimony, you must demonstrate that there has been a significant and unanticipated change in your financial circumstances. This can include a change in income or a reduction in your living expenses.

If the party ordered to pay support loses their job or has a substantial and unanticipated decrease in income, it may be appropriate to reduce their payments. However, the court must also be convinced that this change is permanent. If the paying party has been laid off from their company due to a reorganization and has no prospect of returning to work, it is not likely that a judge will agree to a reduction in alimony payments.

In that case, the judge might decide to suspend maintenance until the paying party finds new employment. This is more common in situations such as COVID-19, where the loss of employment is likely temporary.

Modify spousal support based on a change in custody

If your divorce decree included a specific amount of spousal support, you can modify that amount based on a change in circumstances. However, you must file a petition to modify in court and show evidence of a material change of circumstance. This includes a change in your income, or a change in the other spouse’s income.

You can also seek a reduction in alimony payments if you or your ex-spouse loses employment or finds new employment that pays significantly less. In either case, you need to be able to document your financial situation. Our family law attorneys will help you determine whether or not there has been a substantial change of circumstance.

The judge will only consider the changes that occurred after the date you filed your motion. Therefore, you should act quickly. Failure to do so could lead to arrears and possible contempt of court. Additionally, the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

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