Modifying Alimony

After a divorce, the former spouses move on with their lives. After a few years, either party may find the need for alimony modification, either the amount paid or the amount received. Like child support, a change in circumstance of the payor or the payee is grounds for seeking modification of the terms and conditions of spousal support.

A payee might lose his or her job unexpectedly, and request a reduction in spousal support. A receiver might finish college and get a good job, and no longer need a large amount of alimony.

The process of modifying alimony is the same no matter the reason even though there are many different reasons former spouses might request a change.

Alimony modification can happen in two ways. The first is by spousal agreement. Former spouses who maintain a friendly relationship may agree to a change without involving the court system; however, no matter how friendly the relationship, the modification should be approved by the court and signed by a judge. That way, both parties are protected in the event that later someone decides not to abide by the terms agreed upon.

The second way is through the court system. No matter who requests the alimony modification, the courts consider the dependent spouse’s needs, his or her ability to contribute toward that need, and the supporting spouse’s ability to maintain the dependent spouse. Any evidence must be completely new to the court. Any issues addressed previously in the spousal support arrangements are not grounds for modification. Following this, the courts consider other factors such as any modification agreements that were present in the divorce agreement, as well as the duration of the marriage.

Courts hear a variety of claims in alimony modifications. The retirement of the payor spouse, either because of age or health, is a change in circumstance that may constitute grounds to modify alimony. When retirement is in good faith or involuntary, such as reaching 65 or being squeezed from the workplace, the modification, if any, may be granted when the benefits to the payor outweigh the disadvantage to the payee. Bankruptcy on the part of payor spouse looms as a danger to the recipient. A bankruptcy by the payor spouse after the divorce can derange the finances of the recipient.

Changed circumstances also include an increase in the cost of living, an increase or decrease in the payor’s income, an illness, disability or infirmity arising after the original decree, the dependant spouse’s loss of a home or apartment, and/or the dependant spouse’s cohabitation with another.

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