Under a number of different circumstances, judges in California will modify or end spousal support orders, but ex-spouses need to go through an extensive legal process to ensure that the changes become official through the court system. Even if ex-spouses can agree on a modified amount of alimony, they will still want to have legal papers drawn up and have a judge sign them instead of just relying on an oral or informal written agreement.

A judge might decide to change a spousal support order because an ex-spouse’s income has changed or because the individual is in jail. Additionally, if the person receiving spousal support gets married or is not making an effort to become self-supporting, this could justify a modification of the original order.

Someone who desires a change in their spousal support order needs to fill out paperwork and go before a judge immediately after they experience a change in circumstances, such as losing their job. Waiting until months after means that judges only consider their changed situation on the date of the filed paperwork, not the date that an ex-spouse was incarcerated or had a change in their financial situation. Exes who come to an agreement can develop a written agreement, but they still need a judge to sign the order to make it official.

To change or end a spousal support order in California, ex-spouses must fill out a number of forms, including a Request for Order and an Income and Expense Declaration. After filling out the necessary forms, individuals might want to have the documents looked over by an family law attorney, file the paperwork with a court clerk, have papers served to their former spouse, obtain a court date and attend the court hearing.

Source: Judicial Council of California, “Changing (or Ending) a Spousal/Partner Support Order,” Accessed Jan. 23, 2015