Spousal support is used to ensure that both spouses will be financially stable when their divorce concludes. It is typically paid each month by the spouse of greater income to the spouse of lesser income or greater parental responsibilities. Oftentimes, whoever pays spousal support feels like they are paying too much because they would rather not pay anything at all to an ex-spouse.
Are you in the same situation as someone who thinks they are paying too much spousal support each month? Are your finances straining because you have to give so much to your ex? You might have the option to minimize the spousal support you pay or eliminate it altogether.
Changing a Spousal Support Order
You cannot decide to stop paying the court-ordered amount of spousal support without getting in trouble with that same court, so don’t take that approach. Instead, you need to see if you have the legal grounds necessary to get the court to approve a change to the spousal support order. For a court to agree to alter your spousal support order and reduce the amount you pay, you and/or your ex-spouse must have undergone a significant life change that affects your financial situations. Not liking how much you pay your ex-spouse – but being able to comfortably afford it – is not enough to have your spousal support order changed.
The court usually considers these situations as grounds to change a spousal support order:
- Job loss: You lose your job in an unexpected or unpreventable manner. If you were laid off or terminated, then you might not be able to keep supporting your spouse as you were before. However, quitting your job by your own accord is not unpreventable, so it usually is not enough to warrant a spousal support order alteration.
- Income reduction: Similarly, if your income is reduced in a way that was not in your control, then you could ask to have your spousal support payments reduced. For example, your company downsizes and has to lower salaries to keep the doors open, but you keep your job.
- Ex’s income increase: On the other hand, if your spouse has begun to make significantly more income than they were before, then you might not have to keep paying them as much spousal support. After all, spousal support is designed to help both exes stay financially afloat after divorce. If they are stable on their own – and possibly making more than you – then they reasonably don’t need your spousal support anymore.
- Ex’s financial gain: Your ex can also come into new finances in ways other than employment. They might receive a large inheritance, win the lottery, receive a financial gift, and so on. Any financial gain on their part might justify a reduction in the spousal support they receive from you.
- Ex remarries: In most states, you can request an immediate end to spousal support the moment your ex-spouse remarries. At that point, they are expected to become financially stable due to the combined efforts of themselves and their new spouse. In some cases, you can even request a change to spousal support if you learn that your ex has become engaged.
- Disability: If you suffer a disability that prevents you from working, then your income is likely to drop while your day-to-day living costs and healthcare treatments bills go up. A new disability could warrant changing your spousal support agreement.
- Incarceration: Becoming incarcerated for an extended period will certainly disrupt your financial situation. A court might approve of a spousal support decrease if you go to prison, but it might not since it could argue that your incarceration was preventable had you not committed any crimes. Whether you did commit a crime or not is a matter for the criminal court, though.
Ultimately, there is no way to simply and quickly minimize your spousal support payments. Once the court creates the order, only the court can change it, and it will need to be convinced. Also, keep in mind that this is only a discussion about spousal support. Child support is a completely different concept, and it is even more difficult to change once it is approved.