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What is an Alimony Modification?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Alimony modification is an adjustment in the amount of money someone must pay in spousal support. People can reach a private agreement with assistance from attorneys to change the amount of alimony, or they could go to court to request a court order to change the mandated payments. People may need to increase or decrease the amounts of the payments, or stop alimony altogether because it is no longer necessary.

When couples divorce, one partner may have an obligation to pay alimony to the other. This typically happens when one partner is wealthier and the first partner was relying on that person for income during the marriage, or sacrificed career and employment opportunities for the marriage and, following the divorce, is at a financial disadvantage. This is separate from child support, payments made to the partner who gets custody of the children, and the amount a court decides to order can vary.

Usually, an alimony agreement includes some room for modifications. The agreement may mandate that payments end upon the recipient's remarriage, or that payments should increase to match cost of living. A so-called “escalator” clause allows people to claim more alimony if it becomes necessary due to a change in circumstances. The agreement may allow for a temporary reduction or suspension in payments to accommodate hardship without any need to make a new agreement.

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In other situations, people need an alimony modification. If the partners are on reasonably good terms, it may be possible to do this privately, but it is a good idea to ask attorneys to finalize the agreement to make sure everyone understands what is expected. People can request a temporary alimony modification if they are having trouble making payments because of illness, death in the family, job loss, and other issues. Likewise, partners who need more money can request it, or can ask for a reduction in payments because they no longer need as much alimony.

Sometimes, the relationship between the exes is more acrimonious and they may need to go to court for an alimony modification. In court, the partner requesting a modification lays out the reasons why and asks a judge for a court order on the matter. The other partner has an opportunity to speak, providing information to argue against the alimony modification. For example, one partner could ask for a termination of alimony on the grounds that the other is in a live-in relationship, while the other might argue it is a temporary arrangement, and thus doesn't meet the standards for ending the alimony requirement.

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