How to Modify Alimony in California

If a couple divorce, and one spouse earns significantly more than the other, a judge will likely order the higher earning spouse to pay the other support.  The purpose for support is to allow a lesser earning spouse to “get back on their feet” while still enjoying a similar standard of living while married.  Financial situations change, and it may be necessary for you to modify the amount of alimony your spouse receives.

Obtain a Written Agreement to Modify Support Order

The simplest way to modify the amount of alimony is to discuss the modification with your ex.  If you are on good terms, you may come to an agreement to modify the support order.  If you both agree, then you can both sign a written modification and file it with the court.

Request for Order to Modify Support

If you need to decrease the amount of alimony, and your ex refuses to agree to the modification you will need to get a court order.  To modify support, California requires Request for Order (FL-300), an Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150), and a Declaration (MC-030), in which you will need to explain to the court why you need a modification.  Filing a Request for Order entails a $60 filing fee, which can be waived if income requirements are met. After you file the forms, the court will set a hearing date.   Some family law courts have mediation services that can assist you with resolving the dispute without a hearing.

Change of Circumstance to Modify Support

If you need to lower the amount of support, there must be a change in your or your ex’s financial situation to justify the modification.  This can be a decrease in your income due to circumstances out of your control.  If you are over age 65, retirement is a valid reason to reduce spousal support payments.  An increase in your ex’s income or a sudden windfall, like an inheritance, may also be used to justify a modification in the spousal support amount.  If your ex begins cohabiting with a significant other, there is a rebuttable presumption that he/she requires less support.

If you are receiving support and you need to increase the amount of support, you can petition the court for an increase under limited circumstances.  Either the original amount of support was not adequate to meet you needs or there has been a sudden increase in your living expenses, and you need additional support to maintain your current lifestyle.  Remember that purpose of spousal support is so you can have a similar standard of living to the one you had while married, so an increase in your ex’s income is not a justification to increase the amount of support.

If the original spousal support order stated that it was not subject to modification or both spouses agreed in open court that support order was not subject to modification, a court will not grant a modification not matter how much circumstances may justify one.

Contact San Diego Esquire for more information about how to a spousal support order.

California Spousal Support
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