Alimony, sometimes referred to as spousal support, is separate from child support. Alimony is a legal obligation to provide financial support for a spouse after the dissolution of a marriage. If you want to modify your spousal support agreement, you will need to check your state laws. Adjusting a spousal support agreement usually takes a significant change in circumstances.

Reasons a Spousal Support Agreement Might Need to Be Modified

A common reason alimony is modified is because the person paying alimony needs to lower what is being paid. Maybe the payor lost a job or went back to school but needs relief from the alimony. In most states, the payor would want to ask a judge to reduce the alimony. The court may ask for proof that the person’s income dropped.

If a spouse cohabitates with a person, the person paying spousal support may ask for a reduction because the person receiving alimony doesn’t need as much support. Another change in circumstance could be a change in the law. If divorce law changes, you may be able to ask for a modification in spousal support under the new law.

Alimony can be adjusted for annual cost of living increases, but this is something that is usually written into the original divorce decree. If it wasn’t, then you might be able to request a modification from the court. It depends on what was written in your original decree. Some decrees state that the amount of spousal support can’t change at all.

Another option is an escalator clause, which guarantees the payee an increase in spousal support if the payor gets an increase in income. Typically, this, too, would be written into the original divorce decree. It can be more difficult to modify spousal support upward. Many states will only reduce alimony.

Do You Have to Go to Court?

You and your spouse may agree to a modification of spousal support for a temporary period or permanently. Technically, you do not need to go to court to modify alimony. Keep in mind that if you do agree to a modification, unless it is approved by the court, you cannot enforce the modification if either spouse does not live up to the agreement.

If you need to seek a modification of alimony, it would be advisable to speak to an attorney to check the laws in your state. A divorce lawyer, like a divorce lawyer in Lake Forest, IL from Hurst, Robin & Kay, LLC, can help you through the process to find the best outcome for your situation.