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What You Need to Know About Changing a Spousal Maintenance Agreement

There are few things in life that are permanent. The courts understand that life does not remain the same forever, which is why it allows modifications to be made to your settlement agreement. If you are interested in modifying your spousal maintenance agreement, for example, the court will allow such an adjustment if the circumstances warrant it. In some cases, the recipient is no longer in need of it due to remarriage. However, modifications have a tendency to get complex, so it is crucial to consult a divorce attorney to ensure your interests are effectively represented and the process goes smoothly.

For now, read on to learn some important information regarding spousal maintenance agreement modifications.

Modifying Spousal Support Agreements in California

If you decide to request a modification of your spousal support agreement, this can only be done if you can show a material change since the last order. This change must be substantial, however, or the court will not grant a termination or modification of the spousal support order. If the material change is a reduction in income, the court has the discretion to determine if this change was under your control. An ex-spouse cannot deliberately reduce his or her income to lower spousal support payments.

The following are some factors that the court considers when determining if there is a substantial change in circumstances:

  • Both parties are capable of maintaining the marital standard of living with their individual earning capacities.
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay spousal support has changed. A spousal support order must be based on the supporting spouse’s present circumstances, current income, and cash flow, so if he or she is earning less at the time of the modification request, this change will be considered.
  • The assets and debt of each party will also be considered. A spouse’s separate estate, including any assets awarded during the divorce proceedings, as well as the potential income the assets might generate will all be considered by the court to modify or terminate a spousal maintenance order.
  • If there are hardships that exist for either party, the court will also have to weigh in on these and determine how best to balance it when deciding whether or not to modify or terminate spousal support.
  • Spousal support is meant to assist the receiving party in becoming self-supporting within a reasonable timeframe. Depending on the duration of the marriage, “reasonable” can vary in its definition.
  • The age and health of each party is another factor that is often considered. If the supporting spouse is in ill health, the court might decide that his or her condition is strongly relevant to the duration of the spousal support order.
  • The supporting spouse has reached the age of 65 and retired. When the supporting spouse retires at the normal retirement age, he or she cannot be mandated to continue working simply to keep making payments nor can it be ordered for the supporting spouse to invade the principal of his or her investments to continue making payments.
  • Except in cases where parties agreed in writing to the contrary, when a spouse remarries, the spousal support order is automatically terminated. However, if the receiving spouse is simply cohabitating with another person, there must be more proof to warrant a reduction or termination of spousal support.

Burden of Proof

When a spouse seeks to lower or terminate an existing spousal support order, the party seeking bears the burden of proof and must show a sufficient basis for this request. He or she must show a change in circumstances such as a change in employment, income change, change in health, or any other factor that might compel the court to consider the request. In cases where the passage of time is consistent with the statutory goal that the receiving spouse become self-sufficient within a reasonable period of time, this might be the only factor a court needs to grant the modification or termination.

If you would like to modify a spousal support order, you must file a Request for Order in the court where the original order or judgment was rendered. To ensure the best possible outcome, seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in handling such cases.

Spousal Maintenance Modification Attorneys in San Diego

Are you interested in seeking a modification of your spousal maintenance agreement? At Cage & Miles, we understand that life is not static, which is why our team of San Diego family law attorneys are here to assist you throughout this process. We take great pride in helping families come to achieve the outcome they need by putting the law to work for them.

Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable member of our legal team!