Open Monday - Friday, 8:30am - 5:00pm

Can Spousal Support Be Modified in California?

Spousal support orders are generally modifiable in Court unless your Judgment or Stipulation specifically and clearly states otherwise. If a spousal support order clearly states it is a non-modifiable order, the Court does not have the discretion to modify the support order, regardless of whether a hardship has occurred or may occur. It should be noted that the Court does not have the authority to make an order for non-modifiable spousal support; however, both parties may agree to the same by executing a Stipulated Judgment or Stipulation and Order.

For orders that are modifiable, the requesting party must prove “a change in circumstances,” in order to modify the support order upwards or downwards. Whether a spousal support modification is warranted depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case.

Increase in Spousal Support

If an agreement between the parties cannot be reached on the issue of a modification of spousal support, the requesting party must file a Request for Order with the Court. A Request for Order is a motion wherein the requesting party requests that the Court order a specific ruling, such as an increase in spousal support.

In a Request for Order regarding a post-judgment modification to permanent, post- divorce, spousal support may be considered, the moving party must demonstrate that the prior order, when made, was not sufficient to meet his or her reasonable needs at the time the support was ordered or that the reasonable cost of satisfying those needs have increased.

In determining whether the prior order satisfied “reasonable needs,” the trial court will analyze the very specific factors listed in the Family Code. The aforementioned factors are as follows:

After the Court has considered and weighed all of the applicable factors listed above, it may order spousal support at an amount greater than, equal to, or less than what the supported spouse may require to maintain the marital standard of living, also known as the general description of the station in life you enjoyed during the marriage, in order to achieve a just and reasonable result under the facts and circumstances of the case.

Decrease Spousal Support

Similar to requesting an increase in spousal support, if an agreement between the parties cannot be reached with respect to a decrease in spousal support, the requesting party must file a Request for Order with the Court. In lowering or terminating spousal support, the Court must also consider and weigh all of the appropriate spousal support factors in the Family Code.

In addition, you should note that traditionally, the passage of time from the entry of the support order may be considered as an important factor in lowering spousal support depending on other circumstances. However, the passage of time alone is not a sufficient basis for modification. Rather, it is the change in circumstances such as employment, income, health, age, etc. which is most important to the Court.

If you are looking to modify your spousal support order, contact the experienced attorneys at Bremer Whyte Brown & O'Meara, LLP to determine whether the facts in your case are likely to qualify as a “change in circumstances.”