Alimony, sometimes referred to as spousal support, is paid to a spouse pursuant to a court order subsequent to a divorce or legal separation. It is intended to provide support to a spouse and should not be confused with child support, which is intended to be for the support and care of minor children. The most common way to stop alimony payments is to return to court and request a modification of the original order. The modification may be accomplished by agreement of the parties, or over the objection of the spouse receiving the alimony if the court approves the modification. In some cases, alimony payments automatically stop after a designated amount of time or upon the occurrence of a predetermined event.
Once a decree or agreement addressing alimony payments has been entered by the court, all the terms contained therein are considered orders of the court. The only way to stop alimony payments once they have been ordered, therefore, is by obtaining a superseding court order or by an intervening act that automatically ends the alimony obligation. Many decrees or agreements anticipate situations where the alimony will no longer be needed, such as a remarriage by the recipient or the completion of a degree by the recipient.
To stop alimony by modifying the terms of the original decree or agreement, either party must file a motion to modify with the original court. Most courts require the party requesting the modification to show a change of circumstances before they will modify the original decree or agreement to stop alimony payments. The court will usually order a hearing on the matter where both sides will be allowed to present evidence and argument regarding the modification. If the judge is convinced that circumstances have changed, making the spousal support unnecessary, he or she will grant the modification and stop the alimony payments. If the recipient is in agreement with the request to stop alimony, then a joint motion may be filed with an agreed entry which then simply needs to be signed by the judge to become effective.
Keep in mind that laws regarding alimony payments will vary by jurisdiction. Within the United States, in states that recognize a spouse's right to alimony, the divorce decree or separation agreement will dictate the amount and terms of the payments. In most European countries, alimony is treated much the same way as in the United States. Other cultures, however, have historically frowned on divorce in general and therefore alimony is not common. In Middle Eastern and Asian countries, laws are changing to allow a woman to initiate a divorce; however, even when alimony is ordered, it is frequently only for a short amount of time and often the order is ignored altogether.