Spousal support, or alimony, is paid to a dependent spouse after a divorce to help him or her become more financially stable. Typically, the dependent spouse makes less money than the supporting spouse, but alimony can be ordered for different reasons. In most cases, alimony is paid for a limited time, but there are many variables when determining alimony. Alimony is different than and separate from child support. To change alimony, you should ask the court, to protect yourself. In most cases, alimony can only be modified under substantial circumstances. Here are four reasons alimony might be modified, either up or down.
Agreement with Your Spouse
Circumstances change. Maybe you’ve lost your job and can’t pay alimony any longer. If you can come to an agreement with your former spouse about alimony, you can change the amount. However, you should still get court approval to enforce the new agreement.
Cost of Living Adjustment
Many divorce decrees specify a cost of living adjustment clause for alimony that occurs at the first of the year without having to go back to court for a new agreement. If you didn’t include this in the original divorce, you would need to petition the court to ask for COLA.
This is another clause in the original divorce that grants the recipient of alimony an increase in the payor’s earnings. If your former spouse gets a raise, that would be reflected in your alimony. Again, if this wasn’t included in your original divorce, you would need to ask the court.
Change of Circumstances
If either spouse has a significant change of circumstances, they could petition the court for an alimony adjustment. This could include a reduction or increase in alimony. Some circumstances that warrant a change in spousal support include:
- Cohabitation with another person.
- Change in law.
- Decreased need for payment, such as the recipient graduates college and gets a new job.
- Financial emergency.
- New obligations, such as a new child.
Alimony Laws Are Complex
If you need to adjust alimony, it is a good idea to speak to an attorney to help you navigate the process. Whether you pay or receive alimony, you are bound by state laws that determine how alimony is calculated and paid. However, you may be able to lower what you pay or even have payments terminated when special circumstances apply. Discuss your situation with a divorce lawyer to know how to proceed.