Can I Modify or Terminate Alimony?

In some divorce cases, a judge may award alimony, also known as “spousal support,” a kind of payment in which one spouse provides monetary support to the other to address income disparities and to ensure a consistent standard of living. Alimony arrangements can come in permanent or temporary varieties, and the amount will depend on a wide variety of factors. It’s also possible to terminate or modify an alimony arrangement in San Francisco, CA.

In establishing an alimony arrangement, courts will consider factors such as:

  • The current income level of each spouse
  • The supported spouse’s marketable skills, and the job market for those skills
  • The extent to which the supported spouse has an impaired earning capacity, particularly due to periods of unemployment during the marriage
  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay alimony based on their income and assets
  • The extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s education, career or training
  • Both spouses’ debts and assets
  • The length of the marriage
  • The supported spouse’s ability to seek employment outside the home without interfering with the needs or interests of dependent children whom they are tasked with caring for
  • Each spouse’s age and health

These factors can also be important if you seek to terminate or modify alimony arrangements.

About modifying and terminating alimony

Yes, it is possible for you to modify or terminate your alimony arrangement. At any time, either spouse can request the duration and/or amount of the alimony to be changed, unless language in the original decree renders the arrangement non-modifiable (which is rare).

If you and your ex-spouse agree on the terms of modification, it becomes much easier for you to change your alimony arrangement. In such a circumstance, you can create a new written contract that clearly indicates all of the terms of the new agreement and ask the judge to turn that agreement into an official court order.

However, if you are unable to agree to new terms with your ex, you will need to petition the court for a change instead. As the person seeking the change, you will need to file an official court motion and show there is a need for a change to the arrangement based on a “material change of circumstances,” such as a significant change in either spouse’s income or employment situation, or a changed need in support.

You may also seek to completely terminate an alimony arrangement, something you are much more likely to do as the paying spouse than as the recipient spouse. Here again, you must show there is a change of circumstance that warrants termination of the arrangement. However, if the arrangement is considered “non-terminable,” your only choice is to wait until the date at which the arrangement is set to end for your obligation to be officially terminated.

Otherwise, an alimony arrangement will automatically terminate upon the death of the supported spouse. The supported spouse’s estate cannot seek further alimony payments.

For more information about how you can modify or terminate alimony arrangements in San Francisco, CA, reach out to Medina & Company Consulting, Inc. to speak with an experienced accountant.