The court uses alimony to help former couples transition into their independent lives without worrying about suddenly losing the financial support they had when they were still married. However, setting out to live separate lives can bring significant changes that eventually become the norm.
Specific life changes may call for modifications in your alimony, such as extreme health decline, retirement or sudden unemployment. In these inevitable situations, you can sort out a compromise with your former spouse and put your agreement through the legal system to ensure your modifications are binding and enforceable. However, you cannot modify lumpsum or bridge-the-gap alimonies.
You can take the following steps to request the court for an alimony modification:
- File a petition signed before a notary public or deputy clerk. You can file it in the county that issued your original alimony order.
- Notify your former spouse about the petition.
- After filing all the correct documents, you will schedule a hearing by contacting a clerk, judicial assistant or family law intake officer.
If your former spouse agrees with your petition, you must attend the hearing to conclude the case. However, the next steps can change if your former spouse contests your proposed changes.
You may need mediation services before the final hearing if you cannot settle your differences. Additionally, your former spouse can file an answer and counter your petition. These disputes can significantly affect the process.
Considerations for modification
Initially, the court looked at different aspects of you and your former spouse’s circumstances to set up your original alimony, including:
- Length of marriage
- Physical and mental health
- Sources of income and assets
- Educational attainment and ability to earn
- Contributions during the marriage
After filing for modification, the court will check if your life-altering events substantially impacted these factors, making your alimony obsolete. The bigger the changes, the better your chances of having the court grant your request.