Alimony (also called “spousal support”) can be a hot topic in a divorce, and it’s never really surprising when a couple at war with each other can’t agree on what’s fair.
Even once alimony issues are settled (whether by agreement or an order of the court), they can crop up again years after the divorce is final.
When does the court have a say?
As long as some alimony was awarded at the time of the divorce, the court retains jurisdiction over that payment so long as it continues.
Generally speaking, however, the court isn’t usually eager to revisit dollar amounts and make changes. The court will consider a modification request, however, when there has been a change in one party’s financial circumstances that is involuntary, substantial and permanent.
What sort of changes does the court consider “substantial enough” to warrant consideration? Issues like the following (for either party) could be enough to do it:
- A major health problem that affects one party’s ability to work
- Retirement, downsizing or an extended layoff
- A sizeable gain of assets through gifts, inheritance or some other means
- A significant increase in one party’s income through pay raises or a new job
A $2,000 holiday bonus received by the payor spouse from his generous employer, for example, probably wouldn’t be considered either substantial or permanent — while a $2 million year-end bonus that could repeat based on the paying spouse’s job performance might.
Could you be entitled to an alimony modification?
If you believe that your alimony payments should be changed, you need to make a compelling case for the court to act. Working with an experienced attorney can help you learn more about the next steps.