In some situations, circumstances change in a manner significant enough to necessitate a change in a previously-issued spousal support order in California divorce cases. In some situations, a party’s income may have significantly changed. In others, a former spouse who is receiving support payments may have remarried or no longer needs the support for other reasons. In still other cases, the party receiving payments may have not made any efforts towards becoming self-supporting.

Whatever the reason necessitating the change, it is possible to seek a change in a spousal support order or to seek its termination by filing a post-modification motion to modify or terminate spousal support. Courts will consider such requests in the event that the change is truly significant.

People may modify spousal support either by agreement or by filing a contested motion. If the parties agree to the change, the court will normally grant the request on a routine basis. If the change is contested, the parties will be able to present evidence regarding the request at a contested hearing. When a party believes a change is warranted, it is important that they seek the change as soon as possible as the spousal support modification will not be effective until it is granted by the court. Such orders are not applied retroactively.

Spousal support is a legal court order, and as such, it is important for all parties to adhere to an existing order until and unless it is modified by further court order. Simply stopping payments without seeking a change can subject a party to legal consequences. When a person’s circumstances have significantly changed, he or she may wish to seek the guidance of a family law attorney. An attorney may be able to help file the needed documents and gather the necessary evidence to support the request.

Source: Judicial Council of California, “Changing (or Ending) a Spousal/Partner Support Order“, November 18, 2014