Can You Modify Alimony in California?

Details on aspects of your divorce, such as asset and property division, child support, child custody, and alimony, are all detailed in the divorce agreement when your divorce is finalized. These things are set for a fixed amount of time and are determined, taking into account the situation and circumstances of both parties.

The courts will allow either spouse to petition the court for a spousal support modification. However, they will not simply grant a modification; you must prove there is a valid reason to modify the arrangement that is currently in place. Keep reading to learn more about spousal support and modifications to the orders.

How Alimony is Calculated

When judges decide about alimony, they examine both the needs of the lower-earning spouse and the ability of the higher-earning spouse to pay. Here is an example of the need and ability to pay.

One spouse has an income of $2,000 per month, and their expenses are $2,800. Therefore, they will need $800 to cover their monthly expenses. The other spouse’s income is $6,000 per month, with expenses of $4,500. The judge may order the spouse who can afford support to pay $800 per month in alimony.

Most of the time, judges will use a formula to determine the need and ability to pay. The formula used is:

Monthly Alimony Payment = 40% of the higher-earning spouse’s net income per month – 50% of the lower-earning spouse’s net income per month.

So in our example above, the formula would be:

Spouse 1: 40% of $6,000 = $2,400

Spouse 2: 50% of $2,000 = $1,000

$2,400 – $1,000 = $1,400

So in our example, Spouse 1 would pay Spouse 2 $1,400 each month in alimony.

Judges use these formulas as guides. The amount can vary based on certain factors, such as if either spouse:

  • Pays for college for your children
  • Has high medical bills
  • Has a significant amount of money in savings

And you can also come to an agreement on an amount with your spouse that better fits your situation.

Valid Reasons for an Alimony Order Modification

The spouse who is requesting the modification is the one who must provide proof to the court. While the courts will consider any reason that a modification is requested, some of the more common reasons for a modification request include:

  • The paying spouse experiences a significant (temporary or permanent) drop in income.
  • The receiving spouse gets a raise or a new job and no longer needs financial support.
  • The receiving spouse remarries or is cohabitating.
  • Child support has ended.
  • The paying spouse is incarcerated.
  • The receiving spouse isn’t making an effort to become self-supporting.
  • Income or assets were misrepresented by either spouse, which would affect the support order.

How to Modify Alimony

The easiest way to get a modification is for each party to agree to the modification, draft an agreement, and present it to the judge for approval. Your family law attorney can represent you during the mediation and file the correct forms with the court.

If you are unable to agree with your spouse, the spouse requesting the modification must:

  • Fill out the court documents (Request for Order and Income and Expense Declaration)
  • Have the documents reviewed by the court’s family law facilitator
  • Make two copies of the document
  • File the documents with the court
  • Get a court date
  • Serve the papers to the other spouse
  • File proof of service
  • Attend the court hearing

The judge will then review the evidence and decide if a modification should be implemented. 

Let the Expert Team at Azemika Law Help You With Your Alimony Modification

If you’ve found that your financial situation has changed since your divorce was final and you need to request a modification to your spousal support order, the team at Azemika Law can help. While you aren’t required to have an attorney in order to file for a modification, it can benefit you to have one of our experienced attorneys by your side to ensure that you put your best case forward.

At Azemika & Azemika, our team is exclusively dedicated to practicing family law. We utilize our vast experience in family law to customize each case to the specific needs of our clients. Our goal is to provide knowledgeable, aggressive, and affordable legal representation. We focus on your family so that you can focus on the future.
Contact us today for a case evaluation.

Read more