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Modify, Reduce, or Terminate Alimony

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a legal obligation for one spouse to provide financial support to the other spouse during and/or after a divorce or separation. It is intended to help the financially disadvantaged spouse maintain a similar standard of living as they had during the marriage. Alimony is a complex issue and can be a source of contention between the parties involved. At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we know every divorce and alimony process is unique, and we are here to help you every step of the way.

Types of Alimony

There are several types of alimony. The type awarded in a divorce or separation will depend on various factors, including the length of the marriage, the income and earning potential of each spouse, and the standard of living during the marriage. The following are the most common types of alimony:

  • Temporary Alimony: This type of alimony is awarded during the divorce process and is intended to help the financially disadvantaged spouse maintain their standard of living until a final divorce settlement is reached.

  • Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of alimony is awarded for a specific period and is intended to help the financially disadvantaged spouse become self-sufficient. The recipient spouse may use this alimony to get an education or training to acquire new skills that will allow them to earn a higher income.

  • Permanent Alimony: This type of alimony is awarded indefinitely and is usually awarded in cases where one spouse cannot support themselves due to age or disability. In some states, permanent alimony is only awarded in cases where the marriage lasted for a significant period, such as ten years or more.

  • Reimbursement Alimony: This type of alimony is awarded when one spouse has made significant financial contributions to the other spouse's education, training, or career, and the marriage ends before the recipient spouse can fully realize the financial benefits of those contributions. This type of alimony aims to reimburse the contributing spouse for their financial contributions.

How To Modify Alimony

The purpose of alimony is to provide financial support for the spouse who is unable to support themselves, either because they do not have the necessary skills or because they are caring for the couple's children. Alimony can be awarded for a specific period of time or until the recipient spouse remarries or cohabits with someone else. However, circumstances can change after the divorce, and it may be necessary to modify the amount of alimony being paid.

Step 1: Review the Divorce Decree or Separation Agreement

The first step in modifying alimony is to review the divorce decree or separation agreement that outlines the terms of the alimony payment. The agreement should specify the amount of alimony, the duration of the payment, and the circumstances under which the alimony can be modified. If the agreement does not include a provision for modifying alimony, it may be necessary to go to court to request a modification.

Step 2: Determine if Circumstances Have Changed

The next step is to determine if a significant change in circumstances justifies a modification of alimony. Some common reasons for modifying alimony include:

The paying spouse loses their job or experiences a significant reduction in income. The recipient spouse gets a job or experiences an increase in income. The recipient spouse remarries or cohabits with someone else. The recipient spouse experiences a change in health that affects their ability to work. The cost of living increases significantly.

It's important to note that not all changes in circumstances warrant a modification of alimony. The change must be significant and long-lasting.

Step 3: Attempt to Reach an Agreement

If both parties agree that a modification of alimony is necessary, they can try to agree on the new payment terms. This can be done through negotiation or mediation. If an agreement is reached, it should be put in writing and submitted to the court for approval.

Step 4: File a Motion with the Court

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the next step is to file a motion with the court requesting a modification of alimony. The motion should explain why the modification is necessary and provide evidence to support the request. This may include financial records, employment information, and medical records.

Step 5: Attend a Hearing

Once the motion is filed, a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, both parties can present evidence and arguments to support their position. The judge will then make a decision based on the evidence presented.

Step 6: Wait for the Judge's Decision

After the hearing, the judge will decide whether to modify alimony and, if so, what the new payment terms will be. The new terms will be incorporated into a court order if the modification is approved.

Steps to Reduce Alimony

Alimony payments can be a significant financial burden for the paying spouse, particularly if they struggle to make ends meet. Here are a few ways to legally reduce alimony payments:

  • Renegotiate the Alimony Agreement: If the original alimony agreement was signed several years ago, it might be possible to renegotiate the terms based on a change in circumstances. For example, if the paying spouse has lost their job or experienced a significant reduction in income, they may be able to petition the court for a reduction in alimony payments. Alternatively, if the recipient spouse has experienced an increase in income, the paying spouse may be able to argue that the alimony payments are no longer necessary.

  • Show Evidence of Financial Hardship: If the paying spouse can demonstrate that they are experiencing significant financial hardship due to the alimony payments, the court may be willing to reduce or even eliminate the payments. This could include providing evidence of high levels of debt, difficulty making mortgage payments, or inability to afford basic necessities such as food and healthcare.

  • Seek a Modification of the Alimony Agreement: In some cases, it may be possible to seek a modification of the alimony agreement based on changes in circumstances. This could include changes in the paying spouse's income, the recipient spouse's income, or the cost of living. It is important to note that the court must approve modifications and that both parties will need to agree to the new terms.

  • Seek Legal Assistance: Navigating the legal system can be complicated, particularly when it comes to divorce and alimony agreements. Seeking legal assistance from an experienced divorce attorney can help ensure that the paying spouse's rights are protected and that the alimony payments are fair and reasonable. An attorney can also help the paying spouse understand their legal options for reducing alimony payments.

  • Pay a Lump Sum: If the paying spouse has the financial means to do so, they may be able to negotiate a lump sum payment to the recipient spouse in lieu of ongoing alimony payments. This can provide both parties with financial stability and certainty and can also eliminate the need for ongoing legal proceedings.

  • Review the Alimony Order: It is important to review the alimony order to ensure it is enforced correctly. If the paying spouse believes that the order is being enforced incorrectly, they may be able to petition the court for a modification or adjustment.

How To Terminate Alimony

There are situations where the paying spouse may want to terminate alimony payments. This can be due to a change in circumstances, such as a change in income or living situation, or simply because the obligation to pay alimony has come to an end.

Step 1: Check Your Divorce Decree

The first step in terminating alimony is to check your divorce decree. The divorce decree is a legal document that outlines the terms of the divorce, including any alimony payments. The decree may include provisions that dictate when alimony payments can be terminated, such as when the receiving spouse remarries or achieves financial independence.

If the divorce decree does not provide specific provisions for terminating alimony, then the paying spouse must petition the court to modify the alimony order.

Step 2: Gather Evidence

The next step is to gather evidence to support your request to terminate alimony. This evidence should demonstrate that there has been a significant change in circumstances that justifies terminating the alimony obligation.

Examples of evidence that may be relevant include:

Documentation of a change in income or financial situation, medical records indicating that the receiving spouse is now able to work, evidence of cohabitation with a new partner, Proof of financial independence or self-sufficiency

Step 3: File a Petition with the Court

Once you have gathered the necessary evidence, the next step is to file a petition with the court to terminate alimony. This petition must be filed in the same court that issued the original alimony order.

The petition should include a detailed explanation of why the alimony should be terminated and a summary of the evidence supporting this claim. The petition should also include a proposed order terminating the alimony payments.

Step 4: Attend a Hearing

After the petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing to review the petition and hear arguments from both parties. Attending this hearing and being prepared to present your case is important.

At the hearing, the court will review the evidence presented and determine whether a significant change in circumstances justifies terminating the alimony obligation. If the court finds that there has been a change in circumstances, it may issue an order terminating the alimony payments.

Step 5: Serve the Order on the Other Party

Once the court has issued an order terminating alimony, it must be served on the receiving spouse. Depending on the court's requirements, this can be done by mail or in person.

It is important to ensure that the receiving spouse knows the order terminating alimony and that all necessary steps are taken to comply.

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