The amount someone pays or receives in spousal support/maintenance can be determined by a number of factors, but the most controlling are the inability of the recipient to pay for his/her own reasonable needs coupled with the payer’s ability financially to meet their own needs as well as those of their former spouse.
Over time, the earnings and/or the other financial resources of one spouse or both may change, perhaps significantly, as might the needs of the spouse receiving support as he/she grows older, such as due to a change in the health of the recipient. Or, simply due to inflation, the cost of feeding, clothing or housing oneself can increase more sharply than a person’s income.
When this occurs, there may be the opportunity for either the payer or the recipient to petition the court to modify the amount of support being paid and/or the duration of those payments. For example, someone paying support to a former spouse may want to petition the court to reduce or even end their support obligation should they learn that their ex-mate has just received a substantial inheritance.
Not Every Spousal Support Order Can Be Modified
However, not every spousal support order is subject to modification. More specifically, all “open-ended” maintenance orders are modifiable. These are orders where the support continues until either party dies or the recipient remarries.
“Limited duration” support orders, where there is a specific termination date, will only be modifiable if the judge so indicated in the order itself. If such is the case, the opportunity exists to change the amount paid, terminate the payments, and/or extend or shorten its end-date.
On the other hand, “contractual” support agreements made between the parties are not subject to modification by the court, and can only be modified if the parties agree on their own to change its terms.
If either the payer or recipient believes that a change is justified, that party can file a “motion-to-modify” with the court. Once filed, the person filing has the burden of proving that there has been a change in circumstances so “substantial and continuing” as to make the terms of the original support order “unreasonable”.
Cynthia Fox Can Assist You in Making Sure the Right Amount of Spousal Support is Paid
Cynthia Fox has represented many individuals in cases where a change in the spousal support has been sought. She has assisted clients seeking the modification as well clients who believed a change was not justified. In this role, Cindy has negotiated settlements with the other attorney, or when that cannot be achieved, tried the case before a judge.
Mediating a Spousal Support Dispute Can Be Less Costly and Emotionally Wearing
Spousal support modification cases can also be mediated between the parties in a less adversarial approach, where Cindy meets with both payer and recipient at the same time to assist them in fact-gathering and in negotiating a mutually acceptable outcome. Cynthia then prepares that agreement in written form for the parties to present to the court.
No matter how the outcome is achieved, whether negotiated with the other attorney, mediated between the parties, or litigated in court, there can no change in spousal support until it is accepted and ordered by the court.