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Modifying an order for spousal support: why and how

Many people who get divorced in Sacramento assume that the court's order that sets allowances for child support and alimony are fixed and cannot be changed. California's divorce laws allow for modification to any order for spousal support if either spouse is experiencing what is called "a change in circumstances."

The courts realize that the financial and living conditions of the couple before the divorce may change. One ex-spouse may experience a sudden drop in income or loss of a job. Severe illness or injury can also affect the fairness of the original order. Sometimes, the income of the payor spouse increases substantially, and the receiving spouse may feel entitled to increased support.

Occasionally, a payor spouse believes that the receiving spouse is not making sufficient efforts to become self-supporting and alimony should be reduced. Perhaps the most common reason for modifying the original order for support is the re-marriage of one of the spouses. If the payee spouse remarries, the payor spouse may ask the court to terminate spousal support. Depending upon the situations of the two ex-spouses, any of these events may be considered a change in circumstances that justifies modifying the existing order for support.

If the spouses can agree on how to change the amount of support that is being paid, they can present a written version of their agreement to the court for approval. If the ex-spouses cannot agree on how to increase (or, occasionally, decrease) the amount of spousal support, a motion asking for modification of the court order may be necessary. In such cases, the assistance of an experienced family lawyer is always a good idea.

Anyone who believes their order for spousal support is unfair may wish to consult a family lawyer for advice. A capable attorney can help negotiate a modification to the order or go to court if negotiation is not successful.

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