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Is it possible to change a spousal support order?

Among other issues, divorcing couples in California deal with establishing the need for spousal support, as well as its amount and duration. You may agree with your ex on this issue and incorporate your understanding into your divorce agreement, or you may litigate it so the court issues an order. Either way, the decision relies on a variety of considerations applied to your situation at the time.

Sometimes, circumstances can change so much that a modification of the provision in the original order or agreement may indeed be necessary. California courts typically require the party asking for the modification to demonstrate a material change of circumstances.

Who can ask for modification

Either party can request a modification. The one paying the support may ask for a reduction or termination, while the recipient may ask for an increase. Generally, courts want the requesting party to submit solid evidence that circumstances have changed substantially in a way that justifies the request.

Changes within the requesting party's control

If the requesting party voluntarily causes the change in circumstances, the court will likely deny the request. Thus, an ex who pays support, voluntarily quits his or her job, then wants to pay less support will probably encounter a denial.

Asking for an increase

A support recipient who wants more support has several items to prove. First, he or she must show that either the original order was not enough to meet reasonable needs, or that the cost of these reasonable needs has increased since the order's issuance. For example, an increase in rent for a reasonable dwelling place may provide adequate grounds; however, a choice to move into a more expensive apartment (without further justification) may not. The recipient must also show the paying ex actually has the means to pay the requested higher amount.

Asking for a decrease or termination

An ex paying support may seek reduction or termination on a variety of grounds, including his or her own involuntary reduction in income, the recipient's current ability to independently sustain a reasonable lifestyle, the recipient's conviction for domestic violence against the supporting spouse, the recipient's remarriage and other statutory grounds.

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