How to Terminate a Spousal Support Order
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.
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 circumstances 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 co-habitating with a member of the opposite sex.
- 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.
If both spouses agree that spousal support should be terminated, they can write a stipulation 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 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.
Contact San Diego Esquire for more information about how to a spousal support order.