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When and why can spousal support orders be changed?

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2023 | Family Law

In many Virginia divorces, one former spouse is ordered to pay spousal support and maintenance to the other. There are many reasons for this. For example, the paying party could have been the primary breadwinner in the relationship while the other either does not have the education or training to immediately get a job to support themselves after the marriage or they need time to get that education and training.

Regardless of the reason, there can be discord about the amount that is paid from either perspective. The paying party could think the order is too much for too long; the other could believe the opposite. Despite an order going into effect, people need to be aware that they could request that it be modified. Knowing the law for changing the order is essential.

Know the facts about modifying a support order

Either party can ask for the order to be changed or terminated. They can request adjustments for the amount and how long it will be paid. There are some situations where the court is likely to agree to the request.

If, for example, the former spouse who is receiving the support payments is living with another person in a romantic relationship, the former spouse will no longer be expected to make the payments. This arrangement must last for at least one year before it affects the payments. The receiving former spouse can rebut this by showing that there is a stipulation or contractual agreement allowing the payments to continue, even in this circumstance or if it is shown that ending the payments would be unfair to them.

The amount can also be modified for a specific duration. A material change in circumstances would warrant this. If a paying or receiving former spouse lost their job, they could need to have the support amount changed accordingly until they are back in their previous position and can make the payments as originally ordered.

Another reason why a person could want to change their support order is if the paying party plans to retire. Retirement might also constitute a material change in circumstances with the paying person not earning the same income as they did before. The court will scrutinize the retirement decision before making the change.

The following will be considered: if the retirement was already planned when the court made the spousal support award; if the retiree is required to retire or they are doing so voluntarily; if retiring will change the income of either party; their ages and health; how long support has been paid for at the time of retirement; and the financial status with assets and property of each person.

Showing that a modification is necessary is key with changing a support order

Simply because a determination has been made in a family law case does not mean it will remain the same for the duration. People can ask for changes if they believe it is necessary.

When assessing whether it is a viable request, it is important to have help from the start. Having guidance from professionals who have nearly two decades of experience with helping Virginians with their family law concerns can make a major difference to the outcome.