Spousal Support Modification
Temporary Spousal Support (formerly called “alimony”) is no longer intended to be a permanent arrangement. Take note that its purpose is solely to preserve a similar quality of life for the recipient in the immediate aftermath of divorce. Compared to other post-separation forms of financial support, it is much easier to change. Either party may request to have the arrangement modified or terminated. As in creating the original support agreement, this process is much simpler if both parties are in agreement. Of course, this is not always the case. Should there be a disagreement, the requesting party is required to show that there has been a significant change in circumstances that necessitates a modification or termination of the existing order. The requesting party usually bears the burden of providing this proof. There are several things that could result in such a change, including:
- Remarriage of the recipient
- The recipient cohabiting with a romantic partner
- New child-related expenses
- A significant increase or decrease in income
- Illness or injury resulting in an inability or decrease in either party’s ability to support themselves.
As of the Marriage of Schmir case in 2005, California’s official doctrine on spousal support defines it as something that must last “only so long as is necessary [for the supported spouse] to become self-supporting.” This means that the supported party is required to find a job and support themselves, rather than forcing the supporting party to continue bearing their financial weight. In some circumstances, the court may issue a “Gavron order,” requiring the supported spouse to show proof that they’ve been making good-faith attempts at finding employment, and that failure to do so has been out of their control. Should they fail to provide this proof, their lack of effort at supporting themselves will be considered a “significant change in circumstances,” allowing the support order to be modified or terminated.
Whether you are anticipating a battle over modification of spousal support or not, finding skilled legal representation is always your best bet. The complexities of this process can trip up interested parties when they’re in agreement, and even an amicable situation can quickly turn sour.
By Connor Douglas Johnson