According to your Separation Agreement or the Court Order that ended your marriage, are you required to pay your former spouse alimony/spousal support? If so, can that obligation be modified before it ends in accordance with the terms of the Agreement and Court Order.
If the Court Order terminating the marriage of the parties requires one spouse to pay spousal support to the other following the termination of the marriage, the question may arise as to whether that obligation can be modified prior to the ending of the obligation, or even terminated upon the occurrence of certain events during the term of the obligation.
In order for a Spousal Support Order to be modified, language must be written into the Court Order providing that it is subject to modification. Unless there is language set forth in the Order specifically providing that the obligation can be modified, the Order is not subject to be modified regardless of what change in circumstances may occur following the issuance of the Order and the termination of the marriage. On the other hand, if the Order does permit the amount and/or term of the obligation to be modified, then the question is under what circumstances can the obligation be modified. Again, this will be determined by the language set forth in the Order of the Court. Some of the more frequent bases for modifying a spousal support obligation when such modification is permitted under the terms of the Order of the Court are as follows:
- Disability of the paying spouse, thereby reducing his/her ability to earn income;
- An involuntary loss of employment by the paying spouse;
- Some other involuntary and substantial decrease in the income of the paying spouse.
Again, depending on the language set forth in the Court Order regarding spousal support, the spousal support obligation set forth in the Court Order may be subject to ending earlier than the timeframe set forth in the Order. Unless contrary language is specifically included in the Order, the death of either spouse will terminate the ongoing spousal support obligation at that time.
If included in the Court Order, remarriage of the spouse receiving spousal support, or that spouses “cohabitation” may be a grounds for termination of the ongoing spousal support obligation if either of those events shall occur. “Cohabitation” essentially means that the spouse receiving spousal support begins living with another person in a relationship equivalent to marriage, but without actually becoming “legally” married.