ALIMONY MODIFICATION AND TERMINATION
After your divorce is over and the final Judgment of Divorce is signed,
there may still be issues that bind you and your ex-spouse together. Alimony
is one of those lingering issues which may require you to have contact
with your ex-spouse for years to come. It is often possible to have an
alimony award modified or, in some cases, completely eliminated. The relevant
issue is whether there has been a “change of circumstances”
that warrants a change. The person who wants to modify the alimony is
the one who must prove that circumstances have changed. “Change
of circumstances” is a legal term. Courts have considered many different
grounds as adequate change, including a substantial change in the cost
of living, increase or decrease in the income of the paying spouse, or
the party receiving payment with another person. It is important to note that in the case of cohabitation
by the supported spouse, the new living arrangement must be one that is
equivalent to marriage; that is, simply obtaining a roommate is insufficient
to eliminate an alimony obligation. Other issues can also come into play,
such as the refusal to find employment, retirement, or receipt of a large
gift or inheritance.
Remarriage can also affect an obligation to pay alimony. If the paying
spouse remarries, the obligation does not terminate. In fact, remarriage
alone of the paying spouse is likely not sufficient to prove a change
of circumstances. However, if the spouse receiving alimony remarries,
this will eliminate the paying spouse’s obligation. Even if the
spouse’s second marriage fails, that spouse cannot later seek to
reinstate the alimony order from the first marriage.
In 2014, a new law was passed that changed the way alimony can be set and
how long it can last. One of the changes in this law is that it is now
possible for a spouse who has reached the retirement age to request alimony
payments be stopped. The end result is that it is no longer possible for
a spouse to be awarded truly permanent alimony. Reaching retirement age,
in and of itself, is now considered a change in circumstances sufficiently
adequate to ask a court to stop alimony payments.
Once you have proven to the court that there has been a change of circumstances,
only then will the court allow the parties to proceed with discovery,
and the parties will exchange documents such as tax returns or other proof
of income. The court will ultimately have a Trial, and using the same
factors (such as need an ability to pay) that it did for the initial alimony
award, it will decide if modification is appropriate in your case.
Modification and timing of alimony modification is a fact-specific situation.
and discuss whether the timing is right to seek to change your alimony.