Unlike child support, spousal support and maintenance is not calculated by a formula or a computer program. While some jurisdictions have guidelines, these are not mandated by law and may not be followed in every instance.
To order spousal support and maintenance, courts examine many factors such as length of the marriage, relative income of the parties, a spouse’s ability to pay support, marital standard of living, needs of the parties, health and age of the parties, etc. The Law Offices Of Mariam Ebrahimi PLLC is committed to aggressive representation in all spousal support issues.
Like child support, spousal support may be modified, upon a showing of substantially changed circumstances. The methods, rules and procedures for modifying alimony are generally very similar to those for modifying child support. Contrary to the rule with respect to child support, however, the rule in many states is that spouses can enter into a legally enforceable agreement to waive the right to modify child support, at least if the waiver is supported by adequate consideration.
A divorce decree can provide for automatic increases or decreases of alimony. An escalator clause is an example of a built-in-modification mechanism. An escalator clause is one which provides for an automatic increase in the amount of a spouse’s alimony obligation in the event of an increase in that spouse’s income. A rehabilitative maintenance order may provide for periodic decreases in the amount of alimony, in order to “wean” the dependent spouse off of the other spouses gradually.
COLA (cost of living adjustment) provisions can also be made to apply to the alimony provisions of a divorce decree.
Alimony may also be modified by means of bringing a motion to modify the divorce judgment, alleging that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the time of the decree. As with child support, substantially increased or decreased income or earnings may be valid grounds for a modification.
Disability, or removal of disability, may also be a valid grounds for modification in some cases. Increased or decreased need may also be valid grounds, as would a relevant change in law. In a small number of states, cohabitation with a new boyfriend or girlfriend after the divorce may be grounds for modification of alimony.
In some cases, a judge may reduce alimony, either temporarily or permanently, if the payor presents persuasive evidence that payment of the full amount will work an extraordinary hardship on him.
Like child support orders, alimony normally may not be modified retroactively.
In most states, the obligation to pay alimony terminates automatically when the dependent spouse dies or remarries. In a small number of states, cohabitation with a person of the opposite sex in what is essentially a marital relationship without benefit of clergy will also terminate alimony, but this is not the rule in most states.
The decree itself may provide for the termination of alimony for other reasons. For example, a decree may provide that alimony shall terminate when the dependent spouse secures full-time employment, or that alimony shall terminate a specified period of time after the judgment of divorce has been entered. Once alimony has terminated, it cannot be reinstated.
Alimony is enforced in much the say way as child support, and most of the enforcement mechanisms that are available for the enforcement of child support are also available to enforce alimony obligations.