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Generally, the court will modify an order if circumstances have changed for the foreseeable future to such a degree that the original support amount is now unfair or if one spouse is violating terms of the awarded agreement. If, for example, the paying spouse has lost his or her high-paying job and is now earning half the salary, and another high-paying job seems unlikely in the future, the amount of spousal support originally awarded may be too high. While the receiving spouse’s financial situation is naturally taken into account for any spousal support awards, the court does consider the payer’s ability to pay the amount ordered while meeting his or her own needs as well.
On the contrary, if the spouse paying support has a large increase in income or assets, the receiving spouse may be entitled to more support as a result. The same applies if the recipient spouse experiences a negative change in his or her finances that is not intentional. Losing a job through no fault of his or her own or becoming ill and being unable to work, for example, could mean he or she is due an increase in support. The court, however, can deny a modification if it appears the receiving spouse has intentionally taken steps to lose income in hopes that he or she will receive more in spousal support.
Whatever the reason for your modification, there is a legal process for reviewing requests for spousal support modifications. A stipulation or motion for the modification must be filed in court, and a copy of it must be delivered to your former spouse. With this submission, you must include all the evidence you have that supports the reason for your modification request. Your evidence will depend on your reason, but you should supply as much proof as possible to increase the chances of your modification being granted.
For example, if you lost a job, you could supply a letter from your former employer stating your job is gone and the reason (such as layoff), along with statements that show you are now on unemployment. If you are ill, signed statements from your doctor and other support paperwork (such as medical bills and proof of disability payments) can help serve as evidence.
After you’ve submitted your request to the court and your supporting papers, the court will review it and make a decision. It can be approved in full, denied in full, or approved in part and modified in other areas. The court can also set a hearing to review the case further. If that happens, both you and your spouse, along with your attorneys, will attend to support the case.
Many support awards are meant to only help a spouse over the short term until he or she is able to make enough money on his or her own. Therefore, your support order may contain a termination date. Keep in mind that despite this, an order with an expiration date can still be modified. However, if you and your spouse agreed that no changes would be made in your original order, it will be more difficult to have it modified now.
Spousal support orders do automatically terminate under some circumstances unless your divorce decree specified otherwise. If, for example, you or your former spouse pass away, the support immediately ends. The same applies if the person who is getting the support legally remarries.
Spousal support plays a role in your finances, so it’s important that the amount being paid is fair and reasonable. Speak to our aggressive Divorce attorneys at Burnham Law about your spousal maintenance modification as soon as possible.