How to Reduce Your Alimony Payments
- Can alimony be reduced?
- Circumstances needed for a reduction
- How to request a reduction
- Getting help
Alimony, or spousal support, is the court-ordered financial support of one spouse by the other after a divorce. The concept of alimony was first created when one spouse traditionally stayed home and the other was the primary breadwinner. In the event of a divorce, alimony protected the spouse who didn’t work outside the home, providing the financial resources they would need to maintain the life they were used to.
Today, it’s more common for both spouses to work outside the home. Still, there are cases where a court may award one party spousal support if there is a financial need.
A couple can negotiate their own terms for support, or the court will make the determination for them if they can’t come to a mutual decision. The judge will consider many factors when deciding whether alimony is warranted and, if so, how much and for how long.
A judge will look at each spouse's financial resources, the length of their marriage, the ages and health of each spouse, both party’s income history and potential, each spouse’s education or training, and whether one spouse contributed to the earning potential of the other.
Can alimony be reduced?
After a divorce decree with an alimony provision has been finalized, can alimony be reduced?
For example, what if your life situation has changed since the agreement and you want to modify its terms? Is this possible?
That depends on the agreement itself and the state where you live. Provided there is no non-modification provision in the agreement, most states allow alimony to be modified if there has been a substantial change of circumstances for either spouse. First, however, the change will need the court’s approval.
What circumstances might warrant an alimony reduction?
Events that may warrant a modification request for a decrease, increase, or termination of alimony can include the following:
- Losing your job or experiencing a significant reduction in wages
- Suffering a disability or illness that prevents you from working
- A serious medical condition that creates greater expenses than anticipated
- Your ex receiving a substantial increase in income
- Your ex remarrying or cohabitating with another romantic partner
- A significant reduction or increase in your living expenses
- The retirement of either ex-spouse
Depending on the changed circumstances, modifications to spousal support could be temporary or permanent. For instance, if you’ve lost your job, the court could order a temporary support modification until your job situation changes or a certain amount of time has passed.
If you are a parent who has experienced a significant income loss, you may also want to change an existing child support order. Read Guide to Child Support: How It’s Calculated and More.
How do I ask to reduce spousal support?
If you want to reduce your current order for spousal support, you must first get the court’s approval. Unless your financial circumstances have changed dramatically, the court is more likely to agree to a modification if both parties have agreed to the new terms. You may try to negotiate with your ex to see if you can come to a mutual agreement first.
Be prepared. Getting alimony modified by the court can be a difficult task. If you are the one requesting the modification, you may be asked for personal details and financial information that prove to the court why your situation warrants a new amount of pay. The court may ask you for proof of the following:
- Why you lost your job
- How your income has changed
- How your financial situation has changed
- The disability or illness that resulted in your job loss
- How long you’ve been in your new financial situation
- Whether you’ve put any effort into finding a new job with a similar salary
- Whether your ex-spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation has resulted in a combination of their finances
If the court believes there is enough evidence of a significant change in circumstances, they will generally award a modification. But courts take spousal support payments seriously. If you attempt to change support on your own without court approval, you could find yourself in contempt of court and facing serious consequences, including payment of back support (with interest), wage garnishment, asset confiscation, fines, and even criminal charges and jail time.
What if I need help?
If you need help getting your alimony payments reduced or modified, or if your ex wants to stop paying their court-ordered alimony payments, it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities under state law. Getting the help of an attorney, mediator, or divorce coach can help you work through this cooperatively with your ex or present your case in a way that is most likely to get the court to agree to a modification.
Let the team at Hello Divorce help. Call us for a free 15-minute consultation to see how.
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