Many divorce settlement agreements require one spouse to pay spousal support, or alimony, to their ex. However, spousal support arrangements aren't always possible long-term. If an individual falls on hard times or experiences a change in circumstances, it may be difficult or impossible for them to pay spousal support. Similarly, you may feel that your ex no longer needs it. A lot will depend on what your original agreement said or didn’t say.
It's not uncommon for the individual paying spousal support to request that their payments either be decreased or terminated entirely. Understanding how the spousal support termination process works can help you determine how to handle your spousal support arrangement in the future.
What Are the Grounds for Changing a Spousal Support Arrangement?
Spousal support or alimony laws change state by state and county by county. Working with a local, reputable family law attorney can help you understand your local spousal support laws. In San Diego, attorney Andrea Schneider may be able to help you increase, decrease, modify, keep, or terminate spousal support.
If you pay spousal support/ alimony and either you or your ex experience a significant change of circumstance that affects the spousal support arrangement, you may be able to request a modification or termination of your spousal support agreement in court. And, if you receive spousal support and your ex is trying to terminate or reduce your spousal support, you may be able to fight it and perhaps get even more support.
Here are a few common scenarios that qualify as a change of circumstance:
- Your state or county's divorce laws change. Adjustments to divorce laws can be grounds for spousal support termination or adjustment.
- Your ex cohabitates with another person. If your ex enters a new relationship and starts cohabitating/living with their partner, you can request that your spousal support be terminated or decreased since your ex is receiving support from their new partner.
- The cost of living changes. If your ex's cost of living increases (or your salary increases) and you pay spousal support, they may ask for increased spousal support.
- Your ex no longer needs support. If your ex gets a new job and is making more money or enters a new relationship that erases their need for financial support, you might request a spousal support termination.
- You or your ex become disabled. If one of you becomes disabled and is no longer able to do your job or requires additional support, the spousal support arrangement may be amended.
- If a financial emergency occurs. If you or your spouse are hit with an unexpected financial expense (such as a medical emergency), you can request for an adjustment in spousal support.
- Your circumstances change significantly. For example, if you remarry and have a child, you may be able to request a reduction in your spousal support to better support your new child. Similarly, if you lose your job or fall on hard times and can no longer pay your spousal support, you can request a termination or adjustment to your spousal support arrangement.
- Significant time has passed and the ex spouse should have become self sufficient.
It's important to note that terminating or adjusting spousal support doesn't necessarily have to involve a judge or court ruling. If you and your ex both agree that the spousal support arrangement should be modified/changed or terminated, you can do so out-of-court. However, know that an out-of-court ORAL agreement isn't enforceable by law, so if your ex chooses to disregard this verbal agreement, it may cause additional conflict. Family Law Attorney Andrea Schneider can help you draft a written agreement that can become an enforceable order of the court, without court hearings.
How to Legally Request a Spousal Support Termination, Continuation of Spousal Support or Adjustment/Modification
In California, requesting spousal support termination or adjustment or responding to these requests is a multi-step process that culminates in a court order defining your new spousal support arrangement. Here's how to legally request a spousal support termination, continuation of spousal support or modification:
- Fill out the appropriate court forms and declarations. There are different forms for different circumstances. A family law attorney can help you draft your declaration and forms applicable to your circumstances. Preparation and accuracy is extremely important!
- Review and copy your forms. A family law attorney should make sure that your forms are filled out properly before you continue.
- File your forms and get your court date. You can file with your local court clerk, after which you'll receive a court date.
- Serve your ex. Once your court date is set, you need to serve your ex with your spousal support termination or adjustment request. Your attorney can help you serve your ex properly.
- File a proof of service. Once your ex is served, you need to file a proof of service. Again, your attorney can help you with this process.
- Attend your court hearing. Finally, it's time to attend your hearing. During the hearing, your request to terminate or adjust your spousal support arrangement will either be approved or denied.
- After your hearing, you'll need to fill out some more forms, such as the Findings and Order After Hearing Form or Income Withholding. Your attorney can help you understand which forms to fill out.
Receive Legal Assistance from a Family Lawyer
Having an experienced, reputable family law attorney at your side will streamline the process of terminating or adjusting a spousal support arrangement. At The Law Offices of Andrea Schneider, our compassionate, knowledgeable attorney and staff can help you navigate your spousal support termination or adjustment successfully.
To receive a free consultation from our legal team, contact us online or via phone at (619) 304-8499.