What to Think About When Requesting a Spousal Support Modification

Spousal support, also known as “alimony,” is an amount paid to a spouse after a divorce. Typically, it is given to the spouse who earned less in the marriage as a way of helping them find financial stability. Spousal support is not the same as child support. Typically, a spousal support agreement is limited to a few years. State laws determine the specifics of spousal support, but it’s very common for soon-to-be ex-spouses to negotiate the terms of support. Whether you are the payee or payor, it can be difficult to modify a support agreement, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. Here are some thoughts about modification to alimony that you should consider. 

What Is in the Original Agreement?

The documents filed with the court for your spousal support will have some determination on whether the agreement can be modified. Some agreements cannot be changed, no matter what. If the agreement doesn’t specifically have terms on when support can be modified, you’ll have to look at state law. In Texas, spousal support cannot be increased, only modified downward.

Some states don’t allow modifications, except under a significant change of circumstances. For example, if the spouse paying support became ill or injured and unable to work, the courts might modify support. It could be a temporary modification, or a permanent one. In some states, spousal support can only be modified when child support is. Generally, it takes a court order to modify spousal support.

Can Ex-Spouses Agree?

If the courts don’t allow a change in spousal support, the two parties involved can come to an agreement on their own. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t involve the court. It is wise to file a legal document with the court that outlines the agreement. This holds both parties accountable and doesn’t allow either party to change their mind.

Put Changes in the Agreement

If you’re negotiating a divorce agreement, it would be wise to think about spousal support and how your circumstances might change. If the payor becomes disabled or loses his or her job, you want the option to adjust support. It is also good to put in a cost of living adjustment each year. This automatically adjusts support by a certain percentage without having to ask the court.

If you already have a spousal support order and need to request a modification, contact a divorce attorney, who can help you through the process to protect your rights and negotiate with your ex.