Learn more concerning what courts are going to consider when making determinations about Alimony Payments and how to reduce it.
When marriages end, it’s not unusual for one spouse to pay alimony (also referred to as “spousal maintenance”) to the other throughout and following the divorce. Read below to find out how to decrease alimony payments if are no longer able make them.
COVID-19 Update: The coronavirus pandemic has led to millions of people losing their jobs and courts striving to continue operating. Keep reading to find out how these changes are going to impact your ability to pay and alter alimony payments.
Go over Your Alimony Agreement and Court Order for Limitations on Altering Alimony
The first step you need to take is to go over your alimony agreement and court order to determine if they clarify anything about altering support. Many marital settlement agreements and/or court divorce judgments include provisions that determine the conditions of alimony payments, such as how much is going to be paid every month and when the payments are owed.
Alimony agreements and/or orders might include other particular terms, like:
- when alimony concludes—this could be a particular date or be associated to an event, such as the supported spouse remarrying
- when alimony can be altered (modified)—for instance, if the paying spouse loses their job or
- that alimony is non changeable, meaning alimony can’t be increased or reduced for any reason.
You are Required to Demonstrate a Change In Situation and Acquire a New Alimony Order
When your settlement agreement and/or alimony order doesn’t address the matter of when alimony can be altered, then either spouse is open to request for an alteration to alimony by filing a petition with the court.
Prior to you heading to court, you may try communicating to your ex to see if you are able to come to an agreement about a decrease in support. Make clear your situation and ask if you can decrease or temporarily delay support payments.
If you can resolve this with your ex, put the new agreement in writing and present it to a court for their approval. If a court approves the decreased amount, a judge is going to issue a new alimony order.
1. Lack of Specifics in Settlement or Alimony Order
If your settlement or alimony order doesn’t specify conditions for altering alimony, either spouse can request a modification by filing a petition with the court.
2. Attempting Communication with Your Ex
Before resorting to court, consider communicating with your ex about a potential decrease in support. Clearly explain your situation and negotiate a possible reduction or temporary delay in support payments.
3. Formalizing an Agreement with Your Ex
If an agreement is reached, document it and present it to the court for approval. Upon court approval of the modified amount, a new alimony order will be issued.
4. Court Petition for Alimony Modification
In cases where an agreement cannot be reached, filing a petition with the court becomes necessary. The paying spouse, facing financial constraints, must demonstrate to the court why a decrease in alimony is justified.
5. Substantial Changes Warranting Alimony Adjustment
To convince the court for a decrease or termination of alimony, the paying spouse must show a substantial change in financial circumstances. Examples include job loss, reduced income, illness preventing employment, remarriage or cohabitation of the supported spouse, or an increase in the supported spouse’s income.
6. Significance of Circumstantial Changes
The court requires significant changes, not minor adjustments, to consider a decrease in alimony. Insignificant alterations to either spouse’s income or financial means may not warrant approval.
7. Document Submission for Alimony Reduction Request
When requesting a reduction in alimony, submit detailed financial information, including income, expenses, assets, and debts. Your ex-partner must also provide the same information in response to your request, usually available on the local court’s website.
8. Discovery Process After Filing
Following the filing of an alimony modification request, the court allows a “discovery” phase. This involves each ex-spouse requesting financial documents, such as paystubs, tax returns, and financial records, to demonstrate the need for support or the ability to pay.
9. Court Approval of Agreement
If an agreement is reached during the process, document it and present it to the court for approval. Upon approval of the adjusted amount, a new alimony order will be issued.
Getting Assistance Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic
Because of the pandemic, just about every state has presently issued shelter-in-place orders, in which requires people to stay at home, except for necessary needs. These orders have also constrained non-essential businesses to shut down until notified otherwise. As a consequence, millions of those in the US have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment. Thousands of businesses have also been forced to shut down, in which for a lot of them, has resulted in severe financial loss and permanent closings.
What can you do when you owe alimony and have lost your job or have been financially impacted by COVID-19? Say you’ve become ill and are unable work? You may qualify for various financial assistance through local, state, and/or federal methods, as a result, might allow you to continue to pay alimony. If you discover that you simply are unable afford alimony, and you can’t come to an agreement with your ex, you are going to need to petition a court for help.
Even though a lot of courts are temporarily closed for the reasoning of decreasing the spread of the virus, many family law courts are still hearing emergency petitions. Altering alimony is not usually deemed an emergency, however, your state and/or local court might have approved temporary procedural modifications to assist those impacted by COVID-19.
Examples of Assistance
Explore if your state’s Judicial Branch or local family court issued orders, like California’s Emergency Rule 13, facilitating alimony modifications during the pandemic.
Under California’s Emergency Rule 13, judges can retroactively apply support order changes to the date of serving, not just filing. This means delays in filing won’t affect the retroactive application if you serve your ex properly. Keep proof of service for court presentation.
Check local and state court websites for filing procedures. Some courts allow dropping off motions in outside boxes for clerks to collect and file efficiently.
For specific alimony queries, consult a local family law attorney. Despite the pandemic, attorneys remain accessible for remote consultations via phone or virtual platforms like Google or Zoom.
Lina Guillen, A. (2021, February 17). How to reduce alimony payments. www.divorcenet.com. Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/divorce/spousal-support/how-reduce-alimony-payments.
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