If you have a court-ordered agreement to pay alimony or spousal support, you have to request permission from the court that made the order to change it. There are a few limited circumstances which may entitle you to petition a court for a modification. The procedure for changing an agreement will depend on the jurisdiction where you live, but many states follow similar guidelines.
Determine if an Agreement Permits Modification
A court order that expressly prohibits modification may not be possible to change. However, demonstrating exceptional circumstances such as physical incapacity or illness may be a grounds to petition a court for equitable relief.
Obtain Consent from Your Former Spouse
A court will likely agree to modify alimony payments if both parties agree to the change. If you are able to reach an agreement with your spouse, you still must request permission from the court to change the existing order. Do not simply rely on your former spouse’s verbal or written consent.
Demonstrate Significant Financial Hardship
Inability to make alimony payments may be a sufficient basis to request a modification. In your petition to the court, you must describe a specific change of circumstances that will make it impossible to meet your obligation. Examples may include a job loss, decrease in wages, or inability to work. A sudden loss or depreciation of assets will likely not constitute adequate grounds to change an order. Likewise, an increase in your personal living expenses such as moving into a more expensive home or apartment will not bear on your obligation to pay alimony.
When you go to a hearing to petition a court to modify alimony payments, you should bring some type of evidence to prove your inability to pay. Evidence may include a notice of termination from an employer or pay stubs reflecting lower wages. If your inability to pay relates to a health problem, you should bring medical records or hospital bills. You need to have the evidence with you on the day of the hearing. A court will probably not continue the matter until you have the evidence available.
Ultimately, it is extremely important that you seek a modification to an alimony order if you are no longer able to pay. Simply stopping payments or paying a lesser amount without a court’s permission amounts to violation of a court order and could have serious repercussions. Reach out to an experienced attorney, like a divorce attorney from Robinson & Hadeed Family Law, for help modifying an alimony order.