Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a financial obligation in which one spouse pays the other to maintain a certain standard of living after a divorce. In California, spousal support obligations are determined by various factors, including but not limited to the duration of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the living expenses of each spouse.
However, circumstances often change, and the amount of alimony payments you are required to pay or receive may need to be adjusted. In this blog post, we will discuss when spousal support may be reduced and under what conditions.
Modifying Spousal Support in California
The amount of spousal support paid or received is determined by the court and can be modified or reduced depending on certain circumstances. To modify spousal support, a person can ask the other party to sign an agreement and present it to the court; if the other party does not agree to a modification, you will then need to petition the court to modify the agreement.
If you are the party requesting the modification you will need to complete (or have your attorney complete) a Request for Order an Income & Expense Declaration. Once completed, you should file these documents with a local court clerk to receive a court date. You will also be required to serve the other party and attend a court hearing. When reviewing a motion to modify spousal support, the court will consider several factors, including:
- the financial needs of the recipient,
- the ability of the payer to pay,
- the length of time the original order was in place, and
- whether either party has experienced a significant change in circumstances.
Common reasons either party requests a modification (or a reduction) can include:
- Significant, unexpected changes in income. One of the most common reasons for spousal support to be reduced is a significant and unforeseen change in income. If the paying spouse loses their job or experiences a drastic decrease in income, they may not be able to continue making payments at the same level as before. Similarly, if the receiving spouse experiences a significant increase in their income, it may be appropriate to reduce spousal support payments. The court may carefully examine the details of the change in income before making a decision to reduce the support.
- Recipient becomes self-sufficient. When the recipient spouse becomes self-sufficient, either through education or career advancement, they may no longer require financial support from their ex-spouse. In such a case, it would be appropriate to terminate or reduce the support payments. However, it is crucial to prove the self-sufficiency of the recipient spouse to the court through appropriate evidence.
- Cohabitation. If the receiving party cohabits with another person, spousal support can end. Cohabitation means that the recipient party is living with another person and sharing financial resources, which may mean they no longer need the same amount of financial support from their ex-spouse. It is essential to provide evidence to the court to prove cohabitation.
- Retirement. If the paying spouse retires, they may no longer have enough income to maintain the same level of support payments. It may be possible to reduce the support payments, but the representative of the paying spouse needs to prove the inability to pay due to retirement. The court will carefully examine the circumstances and then make a decision suitable for both parties.
- Duration of alimony payments expired. The duration of support when it was initially awarded is also an important factor to consider. If the award period was for a limited period, the spousal support will end automatically after the term. However, the spousal support could be modified in cases where the support recipient can present reasonable grounds to extend the limited duration.
It is important to note that each case is unique and it is best to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process and provide you with information about your specific situation. An experienced attorney can also help you collect and present evidence that supports the request for a reduction in spousal support, such as:
- financial documents,
- medical records, and
- testimony from witnesses.
Consult with Our Attorneys
Fenchel Family Law PC handles a wide variety of family law matters, including post-judgment modifications. Call (415) 650-1112 to discuss your case with our experienced attorneys; we can help you file and present your case as well as understand your legal rights and options.