How Can I Get a Spousal Support Modification in California?

Spousal Support ModificationSince life is unpredictable, there may come a time when you have to ask the court to modify a spousal support order. That is, you may need to request that the court reduce or even terminate the alimony you pay a former spouse.

You may be wondering how to go about requesting spousal support modification. If you’re in or near Fresno, the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks can help you through the process

Two Kinds of Alimony

California courts typically order two kinds of spousal support:

  1. Temporary support during separation or a pending divorce case; and
  2. Long-term support based on court calculations or agreements between the parties of the divorce.

Both types of spousal support are typically paid monthly, and you can modify or renegotiate them under specific circumstances as long as the original written agreement does not include a “no modification” clause. Jurisdiction is retained by the issuing court, which you must petition to make the change.

Usually there is no need to modify short-term spousal support, given its limited nature. Nearly all support modifications are associated with long-term support.

What Is the Spousal Support Modification Process?

Depending on the agreement or court decision, your spousal support order may require you to pay long-term spousal support:

  • Indefinitely.
  • Until the receiving party becomes self-supporting.
  • Until the receiving party remarries.

Whatever the type of support, if you request a modification, you must demonstrate a “material change of circumstance” since the last spousal support order. The court will expect you to prove this change. Usually, this means a significant decrease in income, such as from losing your job, receiving a demotion, or changing jobs. It may also result from you becoming physically injured, seriously ill, or handicapped, or otherwise unable to earn enough to pay as much alimony as before.

What Factors Does the Court Consider?

Before ruling on your potential spousal support modification, the court will consider several factors:

  • Is the receiving spouse self-supporting? Under the California Family Code, the receiving spouse is obligated to become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time after the divorce. This is typically half the length of the marriage. Most courts end spousal support after this point. You may also ask for its termination or reduction if your former spouse has made no reasonable efforts to become self-supporting.
  • Has the receiving spouse increased their earnings? If so, you have grounds to ask for a reduction or termination of support.
  • Have the receiving spouse’s estate and income potential increased significantly? If the supported spouse has a large enough estate and income (for example, through increased value of divided community property or through an inheritance), the court will take that into account. It may be sufficient for result in a reduction or termination of support.

The Court Will Also Check for the Following

Before deciding on a spousal support modification, the court will check for:

  • Remarriage of the receiving spouse. This automatically terminates most support orders.
  • Cohabitation of the receiving spouse. If your former spouse is living with someone in a romantic relationship, you can request reduction or termination.
  • Your retirement status. Your retirement is sufficient cause for termination of support if you’re legally old enough to retire (age 65). Moreover, your spouse can’t force you to work past age 65 just so you can keep paying alimony. At the very least, you should be able to get a significant reduction, especially if your post-retirement income has decreased.

A Fresno Attorney Can Help You With Spousal Support Modification

Changing a support agreement can be a complex process. However, we can help make the spousal support modification process a little smoother. With more than 15 years of family legal service under our belts, the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has the experience needed to help you with any family law issue you may face. Call us today.

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