07 Jan Are Alimony Payments Made Forever?
An alimony decision can be great or frustrating depending on what side of the decision you’re on. For many people, alimony often seems like a permanent ruling that will hang over their head for the rest of their lives. However, this is untrue, as there are several situations that can lead to a reversal or modification of an alimony ruling. Typically, there are six different situations that will result in this scenario:
1. An Agreement to Modify Alimony is Made
This situation is the best one you can hope for. Whether your spouse simply feels that you no longer need to be making payments to them, or some other kind of agreement has been achieved, you can come to an agreement to modify alimony payment terms. Additionally, this decision can technically be made without going to the courts. However, in cases where one of the spouses later decides that they have changed their minds in regards to the agreement, trouble can arise, leading to frustrating legal procedures. This may occur because without an agreement in writing and drafted by attorneys, it will be difficult when it comes time for the courts to enforce the new agreement you’ve made with your spouse.
2. Cost of Living Adjustment Clause
Also known as COLA, the cost of living adjustment clause can be included in your original divorce decree in some cases. If it exists in your original alimony agreement, your payments will increase along with the rate of the annual cost of living. While it can be frustrating to continuously have your payment increase or decrease, including a COLA clause in your original agreement is useful in avoiding negotiation terms surrounding the alimony payments.
3. Modification of Alimony
When you feel that a substantial change in your life, finances, or ability to pay due to some other unforeseen circumstance (such as a disability), you should contact your attorney to find out if you are eligible for a modification of alimony. If you are suffering from any of these situations, most states can potentially recognize your situation as grounds for a post-judgment modification of the original alimony settlement. Additionally, in some cases, you may be able to have your alimony agreement eliminated entirely.
4. Escalator Clause
An escalator clause can be another way to avoid future modifications and agreements regarding alimony payments, but can be rather detrimental to the party who must pay the fee. When an escalator clause is included in the original divorce decree, payments are adjusted automatically as the payer’s earnings increase. This means that as your income rises, so do your payments to your spouse.
5. Temporary Modification of Alimony
Temporary modifications of alimony work in the same way as the modification of alimony discussed in number 3. However, these will only be useful for a certain amount of time. For example, if you were suffering from a temporary hardship or loss of employment, you may be able to avoid paying your alimony for the time period you’re affected. However, this temporary solution does not make you pay back the payments you missed during this time. Instead, you will resume payments from the same place you were at when the temporary modification of alimony initially went into effect.
6. Change of Circumstance of the Receiver
While the majority of the scenarios above (primarily) concern the financial situation of the payor, the situation of the receiver is also important. When a spouse that is receiving payments experiences an increase in income or other significant lifestyle change, the payor may be able to get the payment amount decreased (aka a “downward modification”). Additionally, if the receiver experiences a sudden disability or other unforeseen tragedy, they may be able to request more alimony. Here are the various instances that can lead to such a ruling:
* Financial Emergencies
* Decreased Need for Alimony Support
* Change in Alimony Law
* New Support Obligation
* Cost of Living Increase
Understanding what each of these options means for your particular alimony case can be tricky, so it is important that you contact a family law attorney if you have questions.