Can Alimony Be Changed after Divorce?
Divorce is an emotionally challenging phase in anyone’s life, and it often involves sorting out financial matters, including spousal support. Years ago, divorce cases typically led to husbands paying alimony to their wives for an extended period. However, times have changed, and now courts are more likely to limit spousal support payments to a few years. Additionally, there’s been a shift, with more women now paying spousal support to their former husbands. In this article, we will explore the circumstances under which you can modify spousal support payment amounts after a divorce, as well as situations where it may not be possible.
When Can You Change Your Spousal Support Amount?
Divorce cases can be highly contested, and court orders are often meant to stand for a specific period. However, life is unpredictable, and circumstances can change, affecting the ability to pay spousal support. In such situations, it is possible to request a modification of the payment amount. Here are some common scenarios:
Losing a job can significantly impact your ability to pay spousal support. If you find yourself unemployed after the divorce, you may be eligible to halt the payments temporarily. States like California allow individuals to cite unemployment as a reason for requesting spousal support changes. However, you will likely need to provide supporting documentation, such as unemployment paperwork or a letter from an employer.
Injury or Incapacity
If you suffer from a severe illness or injury after the divorce, it could affect your earning capacity and hinder your ability to pay spousal support. In some states, like Texas, you can use illness or injury as grounds to change your payments to your former spouse. However, these situations cannot be used to start new spousal support payments; they can only be used to suspend existing ones.
In certain states, spousal support payments may be suspended if the paying spouse is incarcerated. Incarcerated individuals often have limited income while in prison and may face challenges accessing their assets. However, this approach is not always straightforward, as some courts may rule that the alimony payments should continue, especially if the incarceration was due to the individual’s choices.
In the unfortunate event of the death of either party, spousal support payments usually come to an end. If you have evidence of your former spouse’s passing, you can file relevant documents with the court to stop making payments.
When Can’t You Change Your Spousal Support Amount?
In most states, modifying spousal support payments requires demonstrating a significant and involuntary change in circumstances. This is to prevent fraudulent claims and ensure that individuals cannot maliciously limit their incomes to avoid spousal support obligations. Here are some situations where changes in circumstances may not warrant a modification of the payment amount:
Voluntary Employment Adjustments
If you voluntarily change your employment situation, such as accepting a lower-paying job or resigning without seeking another one, courts are unlikely to modify the spousal support amount. The change in your household income would be considered voluntary and may not be deemed sufficient grounds for adjustment.
Some individuals may attempt to hide their assets or income through deceptive accounting practices, such as creating trusts and transferring funds to third parties. However, if the court finds that these actions were voluntary and intended to misrepresent financial status, they may not grant a modification of the alimony amount.
Certain life choices, like buying a new house, signing a car lease, adopting a pet, or planning an expensive vacation, can impact your income. However, since these decisions are voluntary and calculated, they generally cannot be used as factors to influence spousal support payments.
How Does Remarriage Impact Spousal Support?
After your divorce is finalized, both you and your former spouse are free to remarry. However, remarriage can have different implications depending on the state you live in. For instance, in New York, spousal support payments usually stop when the recipient party remarries. In such cases, the paying spouse can file the necessary paperwork to halt the financial obligation. However, most states do not allow a paying spouse’s new marriage to impact alimony. So, if you choose to remarry, you must continue fulfilling your spousal support obligations, even if the new union brings financial challenges.
How to File for Alimony Changes
The process of changing spousal support payments varies from state to state. However, the following steps are generally involved:
- Find the court that handled your divorce and contact the staff to initiate the process.
- File the required paperwork, outlining the reasons for the requested changes and attaching relevant proof.
- Serve the court-stamped forms to your former spouse, and in some cases, a hearing date may be indicated on the documents.
- Attend the hearing, during which a judge will review your request, and you may bring legal representation if desired.
It’s important to remember that court rulings are legally binding, and if your request for modifying spousal support is denied, you must continue making payments according to the original schedule.
Spousal support is an essential aspect of divorce settlements, designed to ensure financial stability for the receiving party. However, life is unpredictable, and situations may arise that warrant a modification of spousal support payment amounts. From unemployment and injury to remarriage and incarceration, various factors can trigger the need for adjustments. On the other hand, voluntary employment changes, fraudulent accounting, and new obligations are unlikely to influence spousal support amounts. If you find yourself in a situation where modification is necessary, it’s crucial to understand your state’s laws and follow the appropriate legal procedures to ensure a fair resolution.
- Can I modify spousal support if I lose my job?
- Yes, in some states, you can request a temporary suspension of spousal support payments if you lose your job. You may need to provide supporting documentation to support your claim.
- Can illness or injury affect spousal support payments?
- Yes, in certain states, illness or injury that affects your ability to pay spousal support can be considered grounds for modification.
- What happens to spousal support if the paying spouse is incarcerated?
- Some states may suspend spousal support payments if the paying spouse is incarcerated, but this may not always be the case, as it depends on the court’s ruling.
- Is remarriage a valid reason to stop spousal support payments?
- In some states, spousal support payments cease when the recipient party remarries, but this may not be the case in all states.
- What should I do if I want to change my spousal support amount?
- To modify spousal support, you will need to follow the legal procedures in your state, which typically involve filing the necessary paperwork and attending a court hearing.