Can Spousal Support Be Terminated?

Spousal support is commonly established to ensure that a spouse who earned less money during the marriage is able to maintain a reasonably sufficient standard of living. Depending on the circumstances of the divorce and the current state of the relationship of the now former spouses, these payments may be seen as a significant hardship or cause a great deal of resentment. Whether you are the payer or receiver, it is important to remember that your spousal support award may be subject to change, and certain events can cause spousal support payments to cease altogether.

Unless you have agreed otherwise, you or your former spouse will need to prove a change in circumstances in order to modify or terminate spousal support. Often, spousal support is awarded to “rehabilitate” a spouse, and not intended to continue forever. A spouse is expected to attempt to become self-supporting, and, if successful, spousal support may be reduced or terminated altogether.  Spousal support may also be terminated where the paying spouse can prove that the receiver is making no effort to become self-supporting.

If both former spouses agree to change spousal support, they may formalize their new agreement in writing.  A judge can then take the signed written agreement and incorporate it into a court order. However, where there is no agreement, the former spouse seeking the change will need to file a motion with the court, asking for a modification in spousal support. In court, that former spouse must prove the change in circumstances that makes a modification necessary.

The exact changed circumstances vary from case to case.  Some common examples of changes that trigger modification or termination of spousal support include remarriage, cohabitation with a significant other, or the death of either former spouse. A change in the economic position of the receiver spouse—such as a pay raise or a one-time inheritance windfall—can be a basis to reduce or terminate spousal support. Conversely, if the payer spouse’s income decreases as a result of job-loss or reduction in hours, his/her spousal support obligation could be decreased. It is important to petition the court soon after any change of circumstances, as a court will not retroactively modify spousal support.

So, unless your divorce agreement states otherwise, spousal support is subject to modification. A change in the economic circumstances of either former spouse may result in a corresponding change to spousal support payments. An experienced attorney can help gather the evidence that will convince a court that a modification is necessary. Contact the family law attorneys of DiPietro Family Law Group by calling (703) 370–5555 to schedule a consultation today.

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