When couples divorce, they will consider whether alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, should be awarded. Each couple's financial situation is different, so the courts do not take a "one size fits all" approach to alimony.
Alimony is usually awarded when one spouse is unemployed or underemployed, or when there is a significant difference in the spouses' incomes. In fact, a lower-earning spouse can even be awarded spousal support when they have a full-time job, especially when they earn a lot less than their husband or wife.
Generally, the paying spouse is eager to end their spousal support payments sooner than later. In contrast, the receiving spouse is often motivated to continue the payments for as long as possible.
When Circumstances Change
There is one thing that's for certain and that is that after a divorce, circumstances change for both spouses. For instance, a supported spouse may go to college for the first time in their lives, earn a degree and get a high-paying job, or they can remarry.
On the other hand, the paying spouse may have a significant increase in income, or they may become disabled and go on disability. Or, they may lose their job.
Circumstances such as these may warrant a modification in spousal support, especially if there has been a significant change, such as a remarriage or a job loss. In such cases, either spouse has the right to ask the court for a modification of spousal support.
Usually, the receiving spouse asks for an upward modification and the paying spouse asks for a downward modification, or the petitioner asks the court to terminate the payments altogether. While it depends on the state, spousal support can usually be terminated under the following circumstances:
- Either spouse dies
- The supported spouse remarries
- A court order say it ends
- The supported spouse cohabitates with a new romantic partner (depends on state law)
If you are interested in having your spousal support payments modified or terminated, contact a local family law attorney in our directory!