Alimony, or spousal support, is money payments made by one spouse to another when the two divorce or become separated. The intent of alimony is to support the recipient during their quest to become financially independent, and also to recognize their non-monetary contributions during the marriage. Alimony payments are paid in lump-sum amounts or installments. In certain circumstances, the amount of alimony payments can be changed.
When Is an Increase In the Amount or Duration of Alimony Permitted?
Alimony payments can be increased in amount or duration because of changed financial circumstances in several ways. These can include:
- A reduction in the alimony recipient's income,
- A loss to the alimony recipient's financial assets,
- A decrease in the alimony recipient's ability to earn income,
- An increase in the alimony recipient's justified expenses,
- Failure of the alimony recipient's financial condition to improve as originally thought, or
- An inadequate original alimony award.
It may be possible to increase the amount or duration of alimony payment if there is an improvement in the paying individual's financial situation. This is generally limited to an increase that covers the yet unmet financial needs of the alimony recipient.
How Can a Spouse Increase the Amount or Duration of Alimony?
In order to get a court to increase the amount or duration of alimony, the spouse asking for the change must prove:
- The change in their financial circumstance is sufficient in magnitude to warrant an alimony modification, and
- The paying individual has the financial ability to pay the suggested increased amount of alimony.
In some cases, the alimony recipient who is trying to change the amount of alimony must also prove that the increase in amount or duration is consistent with the rehabilitation goals set out in the original divorce decree or settlement agreement.
What Is the Result of a Successful Argument?
If the recipient of alimony is successful in their attempts to change the amount they receive, a court can order any of the following:
- Increased amount of alimony,
- Extended duration of alimony,
- Lump-sum or security for payments of future installments in a small number of cases, and/or
- Attorney's fees and litigation costs.
When Is an Increase In the Amount or Duration of Alimony Not Allowed?
Generally speaking, if any of the following exist, a court will be less likely to change the existing alimony:
- The changed financial circumstance is not sufficient in magnitude to warrant an increase in amount or duration of alimony,
- The alimony recipient caused or contributed to their changed financial circumstance,
- The alimony recipient has another source of income or support, or
- The paying individual's financial situation has declined significantly.
Do I Need an Attorney to Handle My Changing Alimony Issue?
If you are trying to increase the amount of alimony you receive because of some changed financial circumstances, or you are trying to defend against such increases, it is strongly recommended that you contact a family law attorney who specializes in alimony and spousal support. Only an experienced attorney can adequately explain the issues and help defend your rights.