How to Terminate a Spousal Support Order in California
A recent winner of a $273 million-dollar lotto jackpot was an unemployed man who was living off the alimony his ex-wife was paying him. His ex-wife commented that she did not want any of the money, she just wanted to stop paying him alimony. In this case, the wife would be within her rights to stop paying alimony, but she may need to get a court order first.
California Spousal Support Change in Circumstance Requirement
If there is a change in circumstance, a spouse paying spousal support can petition the court to lower the amount of spousal support, or to terminate support altogether. Changes in circumstance that would justify terminating a spousal support order include:
- A decrease in the supporting spouse’s income. This should be due to a circumstance out of the supporting spouse’s control, such as a layoff or a long-term medical condition. The supporting spouse cannot deliberately decrease their income to avoid alimony. However, the supporting spouse may retire if he/she is over age 65, even if it means he/she will need to terminate spousal support.
- An increase in the supported spouse’s income.
- A change in financial or lifestyle status of the supported spouse, such as winning the lottery.
- The supported spouse is cohabitating with a romantic partner.
- The supported spouse has not made a good faith effort to become self-supporting. In that case, a judge may issue a Gavron warning that he/she is on notice to become self-sufficient.
Modify Spousal Support Order
If both spouses agree that spousal support should be terminated, they can write a modification themselves, sign it, and have a judge sign it. A verbal agreement does not terminate the existing order, and the supporting spouse should protect him/herself by having a judge sign off on a modification. If the supported spouse does not agree, the supporting spouse will need to petition the court.
In California, petitioning the court for a modification or termination of a spousal support order requires a Request for Order (FL-300), and Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150), and a Declaration (MC-030), which requires an explanation for the termination. The supported spouse will also need to fill out an Income and Expense Declaration as well. There is a $60 filing fee, which can be waived. Once the forms are filed, the court will set a hearing date. The supported spouse must be served with the request within 16 days of the hearing. Most family courts in California have a facilitator who can act as a mediator to resolve spousal support modifications before the hearing.
In some situations, spousal support can be terminated without a court order. The obligation to pay spousal support automatically terminates if the supported spouse remarries or if either spouse dies. Many support orders have a termination date, particularly if the marriage was less than 10 years. Even if the obligation to pay support has ended, the supporting spouse may need to prepare an Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support (FL-435) for their employer if their wages were being garnished.
California Spousal Support eCourse
Sign up for our California Spousal Support eCourse to learn more about how spousal support works. There are several video lessons in the course that discuses the in-and-0uts of spousal support. The eCourse includes a certified judical council spousal support calculation and report.