Is it time to change the alimony agreement?

Change is one of the few constants in life. Sometimes it is a slow shift over time, at others will be caused by a life-changing event like divorce. Those going through divorce address a complex set of circumstances and make the best decisions possible based on the information available. However, it is natural to make changes to the agreement if the needs of ex-spouses circumstances go through a significant shift.

If both parties agree that current circumstances merit a change, they can mutually agree to raise, lower or terminate the support agreement. It can be a temporary arrangement or a final order. They then petition the family court to review and approve a post-judgment support modification.

Valid reasons for a modification

The courts will review the reason and deem whether it is valid. For instance, quitting a well-paying job as a CPA to take a lesser paying job as a coffee barista is not valid. Common reasons for a modification include:

  • Losing a job or getting a different job
  • Getting remarried or living with a third party
  • Retirement
  • Physical disability or incapacity due to a health crisis
  • A vast shift in the standard of living

Courts will only alter a lump sum or transitional alimony award (which has a limited window of time) if the spouses agree to the possibility of future changes in writing.

Grounds for punishment

Failure to follow the official process before making changes can lead to a contempt petition for not complying with a court order. It typically involves an ex-spouse not making alimony payments or not turning over marital assets and property granted in the divorce. The penalties can involve wage garnishments, seizure of property or assets, interception of tax refunds and lottery winnings, driver’s license suspension, or even jail time. The courts understand that there could be occasional problems in meeting obligations, so these violations will need to occur regularly.

Avoiding the issue

The circumstances of each alimony case are unique. Couples can get around dealing with post-judgment modifications by creating transitional alimony that concludes at some point. Another option is a lump sum.