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Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)

Modifications To Spousal Maintenance

In our earlier post, we discussed all things related to spousal maintenance. However, there is another related issue that frequently occurs in family law cases. That issue is when one of the spouses seeks modifications to spousal maintenance obligations. Whether you’re seeking a modification, or if you’re served with a motion to modify maintenance, there are some things you ought to know. This article is aimed at discussing issues relevant to motions to modify spousal maintenance.

How Long Does it Last?

When a court enters an obligation for spousal maintenance, it’s likely to include an amount of the obligation, the frequency of payment, and the duration of the maintenance term. Unless the parties agree in writing, or the term of the decree provides otherwise, spousal maintenance obligations only terminate in limited circumstances. Those limited circumstances include the death of either party; a subsequent court order terminating maintenance; remarriage or entering into a civil union by the recipient spouse; or the expiration of the maintenance term. However, during a term of a maintenance obligation, there may be reasons to seek a modification.

When Can I Modify?

Once a spousal maintenance obligation is ordered, that obligation will persist until the obligation is modified or the term expires. Frequently, clients come in seeking to have their maintenance obligation modified. That’s all well and good, but the court will only make modifications to spousal maintenance obligations in limited circumstances. By statute, maintenance obligations may be modified, “only upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unfair”. Therefore, there has to be a demonstration that something has changed in circumstances such that it would be unfair to apply the original maintenance obligation prospectively. Unfortunately, there is no clear indication within the statute as to what circumstances might qualify as “unfair” for these purposes. Therefore, a compelling case will have to be made to modify a maintenance obligation.

Who Gets to Modify?

While you might think that only the person ordered to pay could seek modifications to spousal maintenance, either party potentially can. So long as the individual is able to demonstrate unfairness and substantial and continuing circumstances, they may be able to successfully pursue a modification to spousal maintenance. It’s worth noting that this may be to either increase or decrease an obligation. While there’s no way to provide an exhaustive list of reasons that might qualify for a modification, here are a few:

  • The onset of disability or major illness
  • Significant changes in income
  • Substantial changes in employment
  • Drastic changes in expenses
  • Major changes in lifestyle

Final Thoughts

If there’s a spousal maintenance obligation in your case and your situation has substantially changed from when you were divorced, you may be able to seek modifications to spousal maintenance. If you believe this to be true, take the time to speak to a qualified attorney. At Modern Family Law, we focus exclusively on family law issues. Give us a call today to speak with one of our family law attorneys for a free consultation.

Posted May 03, 2017
by: MFL Team


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