Can I seek a post-judgment modification of spousal support?

Spousal Support is generally meant to be only temporary with the purpose of helping the supported spouse eventually become self-supporting. It is not a payment for wrong doings or revenge for anything; it is awarded by the courts solely to ensure the spouse with less financial resources, with lack of employment history, lack of higher education, will not suffer greatly as a result of the divorce. It is also awarded in cases where there are minor children still at home. Even though both parents are equally responsible for maintaining a comfortable and safe home for the children, sometimes one parent needs a little help. However, eventually the supported spouse is expected to support his or herself through efforts at obtaining a job.

Sometimes, when a spouse is expected to become self-supporting through efforts of finding a job, the supported spouse never does. In those cases, the court may order the supported spouse to submit proof of job search efforts in order to keep being paid support. However, the spousal support amount may change with circumstances.

In some cases after a divorce has been finalized and a court has issued its final judgment or decree, one of the spouses finds that they need a new spousal support order or an order to modify the existing spousal support order. Perhaps the divorce was entered into hastily or while the spouse was under duress, or perhaps the circumstances have changed for the spouse. Whatever the case, in some instances it is necessary to re-open the question of spousal support after the divorce has been finalized. Spousal support orders are almost always modifiable by the divorce court unless they specifically and clearly indicate that they are non-modifiable or the parties have waived their rights to seek spousal support after a final judgment has been answered. If you are in this situation, you must show that there has been a “change in circumstances” since the spousal support order was made.

There are many situations that would qualify as a “change in circumstances”. Maybe the spouse that was getting support no longer needs it, or the person paying support has had a significant drop in income and can no longer afford the amount of support. Sometimes an unforeseeable injury can render a spouse unable to pay support or causes the other spouse needing support. Or a spouse that was being supported remarries, and the support needs to be ended. If there is a significant change in any of the factors that the judge considers when ordering spousal support, you need to act right away to change your spousal support order to reflect the changes.

If the spouses or domestic partners can reach an agreement on a new amount of spousal or partner support, they can write it up as an agreement/stipulation and give it to the judge for signature to have it become a new court order. If the parties are not represented, the Stipulated signatures must be notarized. But if the spouses cannot agree on the change, the spouse wanting the change must file a Request for Order with the court asking for a modification of the spousal support amount.

An experienced family law attorney can help you analyze the specifics of your case and determine your options. Call the Law Office of Olga A. Koplik today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your rights. Call (916) 745-4378