How to Modify a California Spousal Support Order 

During a divorce, one spouse may be ordered to pay the other one spousal support (also referred to as alimony).  The purpose of spousal support is to give the lesser earning spouse an income so he/she can get back on their feet.  Over time, circumstances can change, and the spousal support order may need to be modified. Read on to learn about how to modify a spousal support order in California. Check out our California Spousal Support eCourse for additional insights into California spousal support.

California Spousal Support Modification —  Change in Circumstance Requirement

To obtain a modification in a spousal support order, there needs to be change in circumstances to justify the modification- either a decrease in ability to pay or a decreased need for support.  If the supporting spouse is laid off or has a reduction in hours, he/she can request a modification to the order.  If the supporting spouse is over 65, and they want to retire, they can request a modification.  California will not force a person to work over the age of 65 just to be able to afford alimony.  A modification can also be justified when the supported spouse has an increase in income or a change in financial status, such as an inheritance.  If the supported spouse begins cohabitating with a member of the opposite sex, there is a rebuttable presumption that he/she needs less support.

How to Increase Spousal Support

The supported spouse may ask the court for an increase in payments in very limited circumstances.  The purpose of spousal support is to allow the supported spouse to maintain a standard of living similar to the one he/she enjoyed while married.  To increase spousal support, the supported spouse must demonstrate that the original amount was not enough to meet his/her needs or that the cost of living has increased.  The supported spouse will also need to demonstrate that their ex can afford an increase in support.  A former spouse’s increase in income is not a sufficient reason to ask the court to increase spousal support.

California Spousal Support Modification Process

If the spouses are on good terms, they may mutually agree to modify the support amount.  In this case, they should draft a written modification, sign it, and submit the modification to a judge.  The modification will not be official until a judge signs the modification.  If one spouse is uncooperative, he/she can request a modification by filing a Request for Order (FL-300).   An Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150) and a Declaration (MC-030) explaining the reason for the modification should accompany the request.  Most family courts offer free assistance with filling out and filing this request.  The request needs to be filed with the court along with a $60 filing fee, which may be waived.  The court will set a hearing date, and the requesting spouse will need to serve the request on their ex within 16 days of the hearing.  Many courts in California have free mediation services in that can assist the exes with coming to an agreement without a court hearing.  Note that If the spouses agreed in open court that the original spousal support order is not subject to modification, neither spouse can modify it.

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