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Common Grounds for Modifying or Terminating Alimony

Tue 17th Oct, 2023 Family Law

Few issues in family law are set in stone. For example, child custody, child support, and visitation orders can often be modified after they are issued due to significant changes in the circumstances of any involved party. Alimony orders are no different. While courts generally award alimony to mitigate the financial shock of divorce for one spouse or the other, they recognize that circumstances change and that alimony orders — even “permanent” ones — may need to be modified or terminated in some cases. If you’re considering seeking a modification or termination of an alimony order, a Stockton family law attorney can assist you. 

First: How Long Does Alimony Last? 

The duration of alimony payments often depends to a great extent on the length of the marriage. Permanent alimony (i.e., alimony awarded after the divorce judgment) in marriages of under 10 years typically is awarded for half the duration of the marriage. So, for example, if a couple was married for eight years, alimony may be awarded for up to four years. For marriages of more than 10 years (or any other marriage considered to be “long-term,” even if it is shorter than 10 years), it is not uncommon for courts to award alimony until the death or remarriage of either spouse or until one spouse petitions for or termination.      

Grounds for Modifying or Terminating Alimony  

The spouse seeking a post-divorce modification or termination of alimony must file a formal petition with the court. Such requests typically are based on one or more of the following grounds: 

  • Material change in circumstances: A change in circumstances could include, for example, a significant decrease in the payor spouse’s income or the recipient spouse achieving self-sufficiency 
  • Cohabitation: The recipient spouse’s cohabitation with a new partner creates a rebuttable presumption of decreased need for alimony, which may result in a modification or termination of alimony
  • Agreement: The parties may agree outside of court to new terms, which the court may then incorporate into a new alimony order or terminate alimony
  • Retirement: The payor spouse’s retirement may reduce or eliminate his or her obligation to continue paying alimony

Alimony may be terminated without having to petition the court in the following cases: 

  • Remarriage: The recipient spouse’s remarriage automatically ends the payor spouse’s obligation to pay alimony
  • Death: The death of either spouse ends the alimony arrangement

Other less common grounds for modification or termination of alimony include the incarceration of the payor spouse, allegations that the payor spouse misrepresented his or her income, and allegations that the recipient spouse is not making a good-faith effort to become self-sufficient. 

Modify an Alimony Order With Help From a Stockton Family Law Attorney

If you are considering petitioning the court for a modification or termination of an alimony order, an experienced attorney can help you put forward the best arguments possible. For more information about modifying or terminating alimony orders, please contact a Stockton family law attorney at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.

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