Terminating Alimony

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 When Can My Alimony Be Terminated?

After a divorce, many former spouses enter into an alimony agreement. Alimony is determined based on various factors. Terminating alimony agreements can be challenging to figure out; therefore, seeking professional legal assistance with terminating them in a given situation. Some ex-spouses remain financially connected even after divorce through alimony or spousal support.

These payments can be a considerable expense for paying parties and financial assistance for the recipients. Depending on the support agreement’s provisions and state laws, alimony obligations can be subject to modification or termination under certain scenarios.

As with modification, many alimony agreements consist of termination provisions. Often, a termination clause will be nothing more than the specific date when spousal support will begin. However, the termination provision may be less definite when support depends on another circumstance, such as rehabilitative support paid to an ex-spouse while they go back to school.

The agreement instead might list the contingent circumstances and provide the paying ex-spouse an opportunity to attend court if those situations have changed. In the rehabilitative support scenario, this may imply that the paying spouse could request the court to terminate alimony if they suspect that the recipient spouse is deliberately delaying the completion of their course.

Therefore, many states have implemented laws that terminate alimony under certain conditions. For instance, alimony may terminate automatically in some states when the recipient reaches retirement age. For some states, alimony may terminate when the recipient has cohabitated with a partner for a specific period or when the recipient remarries. But, some state laws impose specific time limits on alimony unless an exception applies. Most alimony obligations automatically end when the recipient or the payer passes away.

But, a life insurance policy, trust, or another source of funds may secure payments beyond death. State regulations will rule whether a paying spouse may cease payments or whether they must file a motion with the court to terminate their payment obligations officially. If a recipient ex-spouse would like to extend alimony past the predetermined termination date, they need to file a motion for an extension with the court before the termination date. If not, a court may not have jurisdiction to change the support end date after it has passed.

What Warrants A Modification of Alimony?

Most states permit divorcing spouses to include a clause in their alimony agreement to limit or prohibit any modification of alimony. This applies to whether the parties draft the agreement or a judge decides on spousal support. Most spousal support agreements will include situations under which alimony may be revisited and possibly modified, but if an agreement has a no-change provision, neither party can change the payments or duration.

A modification provision in an alimony agreement can be written in almost any way the parties and the court agree is appropriate. However, modification provisions commonly mandate that alimony payments will only be changed if both parties agree or if one ex-spouse’s income changes significantly by a certain amount. Additionally, modification is determined by state law, so alimony agreements without modification provisions may still be subject to change. Only a handful of states prohibit any modification after a divorce is final.

Many states allow for modification when a judge decides that a party’s significant change in circumstances warrants modification. Remember that a court is more likely to approve a modification if both parties agree that the modification is fair. It is not likely that a judge will accept a change in spousal support when one party has voluntarily taken a much lower-paying job to avoid paying or receiving more support.

Moreover, parties who attempt to modify or terminate spousal support without the agreement of the other party or a court order may face court action for failing to pay alimony, and consequences can include:

  • Required payment of any overdue support (with interest);
  • Additional fines;
  • Garnishment of wages;
  • Confiscation of personal assets and;
  • Jail time.

Alimony modifications may be permanent or temporary. A court is more likely to order a temporary change in spousal support when the circumstances that warrant the change also appear temporary. For example, a court may temporarily reduce spousal support obligations after the paying party loses their job, but only until the party secures new employment or a certain amount of time has passed, whichever occurs first.

What is Short-Term Alimony?

Sometimes, a spouse may request temporary support during the divorce process, although this support may differ from any support awarded after divorce. Short-term alimony is considered to be the most common form of alimony. It is usually preferred over long-term alimony when the parties were married for a relatively short time (usually less than 10 years) or an ex-spouse needs assistance with becoming self-sufficient after divorce.

For instance, a court may grant rehabilitative alimony when an ex-spouse needs to become employable by returning to school or enrolling in an employment training program. Generally, rehabilitative alimony is more common when one spouse stays home to care for children during the marriage and does not have the means to pursue their career.

How To Terminate Alimony Payments?

Circumstances for termination or modification of alimony differ depending on state policies and the parties’ alimony agreement. A support agreement may explicitly spell out the circumstances under which alimony may be terminated or modified. However, state laws may impose additional rules.

For example, many states may require reevaluation or termination of alimony when a recipient ex-spouse remarries. A court may be willing to review alimony arrangements when there is a significant change of circumstances, although some states do not permit any modification after a divorce is final.

Short-term alimony varies in duration. It may be ordered for a definite period, such as two years from the date of divorce, or it can be ordered for however long it takes to achieve its purpose. For instance, a judge can order rehabilitative alimony until the recipient’s spouse completes their reeducation course. In these cases, a judge may periodically review the situation to ensure the recipient spouse genuinely works toward employment.

Lump-sum alimony is more similar to asset division than alimony. Divorcing spouses may choose a lump sum payment to the idea of being connected to their ex-spouse past their divorce date. Sometimes, spouses will agree to a discounted lump sum payment in exchange for the benefit of receiving all the money at once.

In many cases, an ex-spouse will be mandated to make payments to third parties as support in addition to direct payments. This can be in health care coverage, mortgage payments, school tuition, life insurance, or another third-party payment. Life or disability insurance may become especially valuable third-party support to protect the beneficiary ex-spouse if the paying spouse dies or suffers a disability affecting their income.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you are considering any modification or termination of alimony, it may be useful to seek an experienced local alimony attorney to assist you. Your attorney can guide you and represent you throughout the process so your legal rights are protected.

In the event there are any changes that might affect your legal rights or options, your attorney can keep you posted with new information and update you.

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