Petition for Alimony Modification

By Jennifer Williams

After divorce, life progresses as jobs and promotions are gained and lost, and health declines. Many changes affect incomes, earning capacities, as well as needs. As these changes take place, a spouse paying alimony may require a decrease in payments, or a receiving spouse may require an increase in alimony. Whether or not a court will modify an alimony order depends on the terms of the original order, the type of alimony awarded and individual circumstance. As state law governs all aspects of divorce, the paperwork and procedure for obtaining a modification can vary from state to state.

After divorce, life progresses as jobs and promotions are gained and lost, and health declines. Many changes affect incomes, earning capacities, as well as needs. As these changes take place, a spouse paying alimony may require a decrease in payments, or a receiving spouse may require an increase in alimony. Whether or not a court will modify an alimony order depends on the terms of the original order, the type of alimony awarded and individual circumstance. As state law governs all aspects of divorce, the paperwork and procedure for obtaining a modification can vary from state to state.

Substantial Change in Circumstances

Typically, for a court to modify an alimony order, the petitioning party must show a substantial change in circumstances. Generally, the change must be unanticipated, involuntary and permanent. For example, if the paying spouse loses his job, the court might consider it a substantial change as long as his own behavior did not result in his termination. If the paying spouse was aware that his behavior was against company policy and could result in termination, the court might consider the termination either anticipated, or voluntary, due to its nature. Retirement is a loss of employment, but because it is anticipated, courts might not consider it a substantial change justifying downward modification. Conversely, an unforeseen disability of the receiving spouse typically constitutes a substantial change for upward modification.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Cohabitation

Courts often accept cohabitation of the receiving spouse as a substantial change in circumstances justifying downward modification of alimony. Cohabitation means the receiving spouse is living in a conjugal relationship with someone who contributes to her financial support. In such a situation, courts may consider that the cohabiting party's decreased need justifies the modification.

Denying Modification

There are some types of alimony, such as bridge-the-gap alimony, which courts typically will not modify. A court awards bridge-the-gap alimony only for a specific length of time to help a spouse during the financial transition from married to unmarried. In Florida, for example, modification of this type of alimony is prohibited by statute. Further, courts typically do not interfere with marital settlement agreements that waive the right to alimony modification. When agreements provide for modification only in specific circumstances, courts usually will not consider a modification under any other circumstances, unless they deem the agreement as unfair whereby one spouse grossly took advantage of the other. In these cases, the party who is seeking the modification has the burden of proof to show why the agreement was unfair.

Petition for Modification

A petition for modification typically includes the original alimony award, describes the change that justifies modification, and asks the court to modify the initial award of alimony. A financial affidavit that details the filing spouse's financial situation usually accompanies the petition. Once the party files the petition with the family law court, she then serves the petition and financial affidavit on her spouse. The receiving spouse then has a certain number of days to file a response, after which the court sets a hearing date.

Hearing and Evidence

A hearing on the petition to modify, or possibly even a trial, is typically required. At the hearing or trial, the spouse requesting modification must prove the substantial change in circumstances -- and that it is unanticipated, involuntary and permanent. Proof of increased need might include copies of bills, bank account statements and receipts. Proof of the other spouse's increased ability to pay might require a subpoena for these same documents, as well as pay stubs and employment records.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Can a Divorced Wife Sue for More Alimony?

References

Related articles

How to Modify Your Divorce in Oklahoma

When a couple obtains a final divorce decree in Oklahoma, the order includes certain provisions that govern issues like child support, alimony, custody, visitation and property distribution. With the exception of property distribution, these provisions may be modified due to a change in circumstances, such as financial hardship. Parties requesting modification of a divorce decree must file their motion with the court that established the original order, detailing the nature of the request and reasons justifying modification.

What to Expect at a Child Support Modification Hearing in California?

A hearing for a modification of child support can be a stressful event, especially if the parties involved do not know what to expect in the courtroom. Much like any California court proceeding, the two opposing parties will be present along with any legal counsel they've hired. A judge will also be present to preside over the hearing and ultimately decide the case.

Virginia Law on Modification of Final Divorce Decrees

In Virginia, ex-spouses may modify spousal support, child support or custody if circumstances have changed since the time of divorce. The procedure for changing any part of the divorce decree begins with filing a petition with the court and stating your reasons why you think the existing order should be changed. The court may then schedule a hearing, allowing both former spouses to provide their side of the story.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Amend My Alimony Judgment in Louisiana

Louisiana recognizes both temporary and permanent alimony, called spousal support in Louisiana. However, permanent ...

How Can I Get Alimony Modified in Florida?

Alimony is monetary support one spouse pays to the other after a divorce. In Florida, temporary, or rehabilitative, ...

How to Reduce or Even Eliminate Alimony

As the economy declines and jobs are cut across the country, many individuals who pay alimony to their former spouses ...

How to Determine Alimony in SC

To prepare for a divorce, it is important for both parties to have an understanding of the factors a court will ...

Browse by category