What happens in the courthouse doesn’t always stay in the courthouse, especially when it comes to divorce. Many people are disheartened to discover that long after their hearts are mended and legal fees are paid off, they are still being required by the court to support their spouse, oftentimes for years on end. If you are a resident of Ventura or Santa Barbara county who wishes to modify the alimony order pursuant to your final divorce decree, you should speak with a Ventura alimony lawyer about how you can petition the court to change the provisions of that order.
What Factors Does the Court Consider When Determining Spousal Support?
While alimony or spousal support is not mandated in every divorce proceeding, about 10-15% of divorce or separations include it in the final decree. The purpose of alimony is for the higher earning party to provide the low to no income party with monthly monetary support so as to offset any unfair economic effect of the divorce. Judges consider the following factors when establishing spousal support:
- Length of the marriage
- The couple’s debts and assets
- Age and health of the parties
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The income of each party
- The lower income spouse’s ability to obtain employment
- The higher income spouse’s ability to pay
This list is not exhaustive and the court may consider other factors that it deems just and equitable.
How Long Do Payor Spouses Have to Pay Alimony To The Lower Earning Spouse?
The length of time in which a higher earning spouse has to support the lower earning spouse varies depending on how long the parties were married. Short term marriage, or marriages lasting less than ten years, permanent alimony is not allocated longer than half the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for six years, you could potentially receive or pay alimony for up to but no longer than three years. For marriages that lasted longer than ten years, spousal support may be issued for an extended period of time. The court may consider the lower earning spouse’s ability to support himself or herself. There is no hard and fast rule to this determination.
5 Tips for Lowering or Terminating Alimony Payments
At some point following the final divorce decree, the payor may wish to modify or terminate alimony payments to the lower earning spouse. If one or both spouses wish to modify the order, the moving party must show that a change in circumstances has occurred since the time that the order was made. There are several reasons why a spousal support order may need to be modified or terminated. Some examples are if the payor spouse has a significant drop in income or if the spouse receiving alimony gets remarried. Below are 5 tips for lowering or terminating alimony payments:
- Inform the court upon cohabitation or remarriage of the lower earning spouse. When a supported party gets remarried, an alimony order automatically terminates. In the case of cohabitation, you may have to prove to the court that the supported spouse is in a romantic relationship with the individual he or she is cohabiting with in order for spousal support to be modified.
- Following the dissolution of a short term or long term marriage in which an alimony order has been established, courts have held that the supported spouse has a duty to become self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time (half the length of the marriage). If a supported spouse has not made a good faith and reasonable effort to become self-supporting, the payor may request a modification or termination of payments.
- If there is evidence that the supported spouse has experienced an increase in income, and the payor could argue that the amount of spousal support he or she is paying each month should be lowered.
- Retire early. This tip is geared more towards the 50+ crowd. California courts have held that alimony payors are entitled to retire at age 65 even if retirement will affect their spousal support obligations. Some careers have a “normal retirement age” that is less than age 65 (example: the normal age for a firefighter to retire is at age 55). In In re. Marriage of Shimkus, the court held that early retirement can support a modification or termination request in certain circumstances.
- If you have experienced a loss of employment or a reduction in salary, it is important to request a spousal support modification. A judge may reduce alimony payments based on your newly reduced income or unemployment.
Request to Modify or Terminate Alimony Order with an Experienced Divorce Attorney
If there has been a change in circumstances for you as the payor spouse that you believe could warrant a reduction or termination of your alimony order, contact an experienced Ventura divorce attorney immediately. There is no reason to keep allocating funds that you are entitled to. If you need help requesting an reduction or termination of your spousal support order, call the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth. To set up a free and confidential consultation, call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.