When a couple gets divorced, the court may order alimony or spousal support. If one of the spouses needs additional economic support, alimony can help them on a temporary basis or as part of an ongoing support system. However, your economic situation might change after divorce, and the factors used to decide how much alimony to grant might not be the same months or years after the divorce. The Santa Barbara divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth discuss some of the ways you can get alimony changed after a California divorce. For a free legal consultation on your case, call our law offices today.
Reasons a Court Will Change Spousal Support Payments
Section 3651 of the California Family Code authorizes a court to modify or terminate a spousal support order “at any time as the court determines to be necessary.” This gives the court wide latitude to change support orders when either side presents the court with a good reason to change the order.
Typically, courts will look for changes to the initial alimony factors that the court uses to make alimony decisions. Courts typically look at a series of factors such as the parties’ health, income, marketable job skills, time spent caring for minor children, and other factors that affect how much money they have and their ability to work. When the court sets spousal support, they will use these factors to justify their decision. If these factors change, the court’s reasoning behind the support order will also change, and the court should modify the spousal support order.
Typical reasons someone might want to modify alimony include the following:
- They lost their job
- They got a higher paying job
- They moved in with a new significant other
- They cannot work because of an injury or health condition
- They have to take additional time away from work to care for their children
Any changes that make it harder to support yourself can justify asking for increased alimony as can any changes that make the payor more able to pay. On the flip-side, the payor can ask the court to lower or cancel alimony if the recipient is now able to support themselves.
Courts typically will not change alimony based on voluntary changes. For instance, if you voluntarily quit your job, the court might not consider that a good enough reason to pay you additional alimony. Similarly, the court also usually sees having a child as a voluntary choice, so getting pregnant and having to leave work to care for a new baby might also be seen as voluntary and might not get you additional spousal support.
If you get remarried, courts will typically end alimony. It is typically seen as unreasonable for a court to make your ex-spouse pay for your support if you have a new spouse who can support you. This typically cancels alimony even in cases where the court ordered “permanent alimony.”
How to Modify Alimony in California
If you want to get your alimony order changed, you need to file a request with the court. The court can provide you or your lawyer with the proper forms to fill out requesting modification or termination of alimony. These forms are somewhat simple in appearance, but it is important to work with an attorney to ensure that you fill them out fully and put forth a strong argument in your request for modification.
Filing with the court can get modification changed or terminated, if appropriate. You should go to court as soon as you can to modify alimony since the court cannot modify alimony retroactively. This means that you will miss any additional money you may have been entitled to if you delay filing to have your order changed. However, you can avoid missing more funds by filing quickly.
You can also change your alimony amounts through an agreement. Courts allow couples to write agreements like prenuptial and postnuptial agreements to agree on how much alimony to pay. You can also write divorce agreements or specific alimony agreements after the divorce to change alimony or drop spousal support. The court has to approve these agreements before they can be enforced, but they usually will give approval. Talk to a lawyer about making an agreement for these kinds of issues.
When an alimony order is modified, it is important to remember that the old alimony order is still in effect until the court approves the new one. This means that if you are trying to get spousal support payments lowered, you must keep paying according to the old order until the court approves your request for a change. If you miss payments, you could face enforcement and penalties.
Courts must also approve an order or agreement to end alimony before you are allowed to stop paying. This is unnecessary in many alimony cases with temporary alimony since the court will set an expiration date on the initial order. When your expiration date arrives, you can stop paying, but you may need to file paperwork with the court to stop automatic withdrawals or wage garnishment.
Call Our Ventura Alimony Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
For a free legal consultation on your alimony or spousal support case, call our law offices today. The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s Ventura family law attorneys represent husbands and wives in alimony cases and can file an amended agreement or request for modified alimony to increase, decrease, or stop spousal support to your benefit. For a free legal consultation on your case, call our attorneys today at (805) 643-5555.