Post divorce life can be a long journey. Things often change financially for the parties to a divorce later down the road. The payor spouse may fall on hard times that are not temporary in nature and thus require a decrease or termination of the alimony award. Likewise, the recipient spouse might also fall on hard times and require an increase in spousal support at some point following the divorce. Alimony is always modifiable, meaning alimony can change if either party seeks a change and are justified in doing so. The party requesting a change in alimony must meet the same standard necessary to change any other provision in the divorce decree. That is, the party must be able to prove a substantial change of circumstances subsequent to the decree that was not originally contemplated within the decree itself. The question becomes, what is considered a substantial change of circumstances?
Substantial Change of Circumstances
There are many potential situations which could qualify as a substantial change in circumstances and be sufficient grounds for modifying an alimony award. First, lets consider a few fact patterns which would likely be seen as sufficient changes in circumstances justifying the decrease or termination of alimony. The most common scenario we deal with is a job loss. Now, if you lose your job but it is a temporary job loss, you may not get much relief from the court. If, however, you have been unemployed for a greater period of time, 6 months or more, your job loss might not be considered so temporary and a long term modification might be granted. Disability is one case where a person might find great success in terminating alimony all together. If you are injured and unable to work as a result, you might be able to terminate your alimony order. Additionally, let’s say your spouse was unemployed at the time the decree was originally entered and later become employed and thus no longer has the same need for alimony. The courts in Utah have found a recipient spouse’s increase in income and employment can be considered in modifying or terminating spousal support.
Since alimony is always modifiable, a recipient spouse can come back years following entry of the divorce decree and ask for more support if justified. Much as discussed above, if the recipient spouse needs additional support through no fault of her own, such as following a job loss, injury or disability, or other possible financial emergency, he/she may move the court for an adjustment. Sometimes, a recipient spouse may want to seek an increase in alimony because they discover their ex is now earning much more following divorce. However, alimony starts with the need of the recipient spouse. Thus the paying party’s increase in income alone will not be sufficient, the recipient spouse will still need to demonstrate a change in his/her need.
Modifying Alimony to Extend Beyond Length of Marriage
Generally speaking, alimony may only be awarded up to the length of the marriage. However, many people do not realize a party may request a modification prior to the termination of the alimony award, requesting an extension of alimony. In order to have alimony award extend beyond the number of years in the marriage, the party must request the extension prior to termination and prove extenuating circumstances justifying the continued payments. Extenuating circumstances can mean possibly many different things, therefore, you should speak with a divorce attorney at our office today if you think you qualify.