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Can Alimony Payments Change?

No matter what happens, whether at trial or during settlement negotiations, someone will leave unhappy.  This is especially true when it comes to alimony payments.  As the payor (the person making alimony payments), you probably want to stop or decrease alimony payments as soon as possible.  As the payee (the person receiving alimony payments), you probably want to increase alimony payments. There are certain circumstances when alimony may be modified or changed and when the obligation to pay ends altogether. Read on to find out how.

Modification of Alimony Payments

If an order for alimony has been entered, the order may be modified based on a substantial change in circumstances.  The court will look at the financial circumstances of the parties at the time the order was entered versus the present financial circumstances of the parties.  An alimony award can be decreased based on an increase in the dependent spouse’s income or a decrease in the supporting spouse’s income, among other reasons.  To modify the order, the party will need to file a motion for modification and describe the substantial change in circumstances.

If alimony is addressed in a separation agreement, it’s covered by contract law.  Look to the provisions contained in the contract.  If the separation agreement allows for a modification of alimony, those terms need to be followed.  If the separation agreement doesn’t discuss modifying alimony, you’ll need the other party’s consent to change the terms of the agreement and enter into a new contract.

Termination of Alimony Payments

The requirement to pay alimony under a court order will end upon the first of the following to occur:

  1. Death of the payor;
  2. Death of the payee;
  3. Cohabitation of the payee with a romantic partner;
  4. Marriage of the payee; or
  5. Resumption of the marital relationship.

Basically, if either of you die or resume your marital relationship, the obligation ends.  And If the payee begins to cohabitate or marries someone else, the obligation ends. Whether or not the payee is cohabitating with someone else is a question that depends on several factors. But if you’re living with one another and taking on certain duties and rights normally reserved for married couples, it’s likely you are cohabitating.  You should speak with a family law attorney if you’re unsure and need assistance.

If none of the above events occur, the obligation ends on the termination date contained in the order.

Modifying or terminating alimony can be a tricky issue.  Oftentimes, whether or not it’s appropriate to file a motion to modify alimony can turn on a single issue.  Contact our office today to get answers to your specific situation.