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Spousal Support - Special Circumstances

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What Special Circumstances Effect Spousal Support?

A court can alter a spousal support award if certain changes occurred to either spouse's economic or family situation. Such changes include: 

  • Either spouse dies
  • The spouse receiving support gets remarried or cohabitates with another person
  • The spouse receiving support gets a large increase in income
  • The spouse paying support stops working
  • The spouse paying support encounters extreme financial hardship

How Do Each of These Changes Affect Spousal Support? 

  • Either spouse dies: spousal support will be terminated.  Support will also end if the spouse receiving support gets remarried
  • The spouse receiving support begins living with someone else: the court may reduce or stop the payments, depending on how much income that person brings in and whether the cohabitation is like a remarriage
  • The spouse receiving support gets a large increase in income: the court may allow the spouse paying support to reduce or terminate support payments
  • The spouse paying support stops working: the court will often look at whether the change was voluntary or forced before reducing the support payments.  For example, if the paying spouse takes an early retirement or quits his or her job, the court may refuse to reduce the amount of spousal support because the paying spouse has the ability to pay the original amount
  • The paying spouse encounters extreme financial hardship - the court may reduce how much support is paid.  This is especially likely in cases where the paying spouse has financial obligations that must come before spousal support, like child support

When Can a Spousal Support Order Not Be Changed?

Even if either of the spouse's situation changes in a way that makes a reduction in the amount of support paid appropriate.  A court cannot reduce or terminate spousal support if the original support order says it is not modifiable.

Do I Need a Family Law Attorney?

If you have concerns about changes to your financial or family situation that may affect how much spousal support you pay or receive, you should contact an experienced family lawyer immediately.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-01-2018 08:27 PM PDT

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