How to Answer a Summons for Modification of Alimony

by Michael Butler

If your ex-spouse has filed a motion with the court to modify alimony and you disagree, you must file an answer to the summons you received. If you do not respond, the court will issue a default judgment in your ex-spouse's favor and she will get what she wants. How to answer a summons will depend on where you live and what the summons says.

State Law

The state that issued an alimony order generally retains jurisdiction to modify it. Different states modify alimony under different circumstances. Some states only modify alimony in extreme cases. Look up the statutes for your state, commonly found on the website of your state legislature. It is also a good idea to speak with a local attorney who will be in the best position to know how the judge assigned to your case normally rules in similar cases.

Read the Summons

It’s important that you carefully read the summons you received. This document will state whether you need to file a written answer with the court and when. If a written answer is required, you must file your response by the date indicated on the summons or you will be in default. If you are in default, the court will usually rule in favor of your ex-spouse. A written answer isn’t always required; the summons might simply order you to appear in court for a hearing on a certain date and time if you disagree with the requested modification. The summons will also state your ex-spouse's reasons for requesting modification of alimony.

Written Response

If a written answer is required, you'll need to draft it in the same form as your ex-spouse's motion to modify alimony. Some states have specific forms that you can use to file your answer. Check the website for your county court for forms. Generally, you’ll need to explain that you disagree with your ex-spouse’s request and state the reasons why you disagree. For example, if your ex wants to modify alimony because you got a higher-paying job, you can tell the court that you don't believe this is a sufficiently good reason.

Court Hearing

In most cases, whether you are required to file a written answer or not, the court will hold a hearing to decide whether to modify alimony. You are entitled to have an attorney represent you at the hearing. With or without a hearing, the court will first hear your ex-spouse's arguments and evidence. You will then have the opportunity to present your own evidence and make your own arguments. Tell the court what you want as clearly and persuasively as possible. Ultimately, the court will make a decision whether to modify the alimony in your case.