Filing for a Reduction in Spousal Support

Filing for a Reduction in Spousal Support

When marriage ends because one or both spouses believe it is the right decision, it isn’t uncommon for one to have to pay spousal support to the other. In the settlement agreement it will be decided which spouse pays support, how much, in what method, and for what duration of time. The order may also list reasons as to why spousal support can be modified. It is important to thoroughly read over your divorce settlement, as some agreements state that spousal support cannot be changed or cancelled no matter what.

Negotiating with a Divorcing Spouse

If you and your spouse haven’t settled the topic of spousal support yet, you can try to reach an agreement amongst yourselves without court intervention. Going to court can be expensive, but may be necessary. Many divorcing spouses try mediation first, especially if they are motivated to avoid attending court. If you can create your own terms for spousal support, then you can send this to the court for final approval. It isn’t uncommon for each spouse to have obtained legal representation by this time, so an attorney can review the agreement before it is approved in court, to ensure all parties rights are being considered. 

Showing a Change in Life Circumstances

If the divorce settlement document doesn’t list when or if spousal support can be modified, then the paying or recipient spouse is permitted to file a request to the court. If the spouse paying spousal support cannot afford to meet these payments, then they can request the judge decreases the amount or puts it on hold temporarily. But, in order to be successful, the spouse has to show why they have had a change in life circumstances to necessitate modification.

To convince the court, the paying spouse has to demonstrate their predicament through evidence. Your divorce lawyer in Fairfax, VA can help you prepare for a court hearing by letting you know what kind of proof will be most influential in the courtroom. Some of the most common reasons for the paying spouse requesting a decrease in spousal support payments include: 

  • A disability or illness prevents them from working
  • They have been diagnosed with a severe illness or disability
  • The recipient spouse has remarried or begun cohabitating with a partner
  • There has been a drastic increase in the recipient spouse’s income

The Life Event Must Be Significant

Before pursuing a request in spousal support modification, the paying spouse must seriously consider whether it is needed. The judge is likely to become impatient with a spouse who continues to request modification for one reason or another. Eventually, the spouse’s requests may be denied altogether, and then they are faced with fulfilling the terms of the divorce settlement regarding spousal support or they will endure serious consequences.

Once a motion has been filed to modify spousal support, the court may permit each spouse to go through a “discovery phase”, which is where they are required to share financial information including tax returns, paystubs, bonuses, and other related documents. 

Thanks to May Law, LLP for their insight into family law and spousal support reductions.