How to Modify a Spousal Support Order

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support agreements (also called alimony or spousal maintenance) are common in divorces and legal separations. Spousal support aims to help both individuals maintain their standard of living post-divorce and/or help the lower-earning individual gain financial stability and independence.

Spousal support agreements can vary depending on your situation, and it can be ordered on an interim, temporary, or permanent basis. There may also be conditions that trigger when spousal support stops, such as when the person receiving the support remarries. It is important to remember that alimony agreements are unique to each couple, and your circumstances will dictate how alimony is determined.

How Do California Courts Determine Spousal Support?

Spousal support is negotiated as part of the divorce process. Sometimes, couples are able to reach a support agreement on their own, outside of court. If you reach a spousal support agreement outside of court (such as with the help of a mediator), your agreement will still need to be submitted to the court for approval.

It is not uncommon for spousal support to be a contested matter, and when this happens, the issue will have to be litigated in court. Though many people wish to avoid going to court, it is often the best way to reach a resolution in high-conflict situations. Your lawyer can help you through this process and represent you in court.

When making spousal support determinations, the courts often consider:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The current income level of each person
  • The earning capacity and potential of each person
  • The educational level of each person
  • The age and health of both people
  • The contributions each person made to the marriage
  • Whether one person stayed home to take care of children

Can Spousal Support Orders Be Modified?

Yes. While the initial alimony order may have made sense at the time, as things change, it may no longer be appropriate for your situation. For example, if you've had to change jobs or been laid off, you may no longer be able to make those support payments. In situations like these, you can request a modification of the spousal support order. Similarly, you may also seek a change in alimony as the person receiving support.

Regardless of why you are requesting a modification, you will have to demonstrate to the courts that you have experienced a significant and lasting change in circumstances that warrants a change in support payments. Working with an experienced attorney is crucial to this process. Your lawyer will help you navigate the process and help you put your best foot forward when making your case with the courts.

What Should I Do If I Missed Payments?

If you are struggling to make spousal support payments, you should reach out to a trusted attorney right away. Do not stop making payments, and do your best to avoid missing payments. Your lawyer can help you determine if you have grounds for a modification and help you file all the necessary paperwork with the courts.

If you need help with a spousal support problem, reach out to our law firm for guidance. Our lawyers are compassionate and experienced.


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