Spousal Support Modification
There are often many questions about spousal support during, and especially after the divorce process is complete. For the spouse paying support, one of the biggest questions is about whether or not spousal support modification is possible if circumstances change.
In many cases, the spouse paying alimony has been told by counsel that they must pay support indefinitely with no chance for amendment. However, sometimes it is possible to get spousal support modification, and a good family law attorney can help you with that process.
Over the last several years, multiple appellate courts have decided cases based on the idea that spousal support, by nature, should be temporary in nearly all situations. In other words, spousal support — in the eyes of some courts — is meant to come to an end.
One of the clearest and simplest indicators of whether or not you can petition for spousal support modification is if your judgement included a “Gavron Warning”. A Gavron Warning is a directive from the court that requires the supported spouse to become self-sustaining within a reasonable amount of time.
Determining Spousal Support
When considering how long spousal support should last, courts will look at the length of marriage, determined by the date of marriage and date of separation, to determine how long support will last.
For marriages that last less than ten years, courts typically consider a reasonable amount of time to be half the marriage’s length for the spouse receiving support to become self-sustaining.
For marriages that last longer than ten years, there are different rules for determining spousal support. Many appellate courts and the the California Family Code Section 4320 state that the spouse receiving support should become self-sustaining as quickly as reasonably possible.
Beware of any attorney or other source of legal information that tells you that California requires lifetime support or that spousal support modification is not possible — this is simply not true.
Spousal Support Modification Guidelines
After the support assessment, a good family law attorney will continue to work with you on your support agreement. If your former spouse has increased their earnings, your attorney can argue for less alimony.
If your former spouse has not begun working, your attorney can request a vocation examination to determine your former spouse’s ability to work. This is also a good time for your attorney to request a Gavron Warning if one has not previously been asked for.
Additionally, a recent court ruling found that spouses with separate assets obtained through the divorce settlement or separately held that are sufficient to meet his or her needs must be taken into account by the court when determining spousal support.
If your income has increased, you don’t need to worry about having to pay more spousal support. The law states that support is determined by the marital standard of living, not your increased income.
If your former spouse begins a new romantic relationship and is living with their new partner, that may be enough to request spousal support modification.
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