Alimony orders are set by the court as part of an agreement in many divorces or after a hearing. Like other financial support terms of a divorce agreement, alimony can be revisited and modified in the future when there is a substantial change in circumstances. Modification of alimony orders may be requested either by the person paying alimony or the person receiving alimony.
When can a person paying alimony seek a modification?
It’s common for people paying alimony to seek a modification of the court order so they can either pay less alimony or have the alimony order terminated altogether. There are several scenarios in which an alimony modification may be granted, including changes impacting the financial need of the alimony recipient and changes impacting the alimony payer’s ability to pay.
Several scenarios can cause a reduction in the financial need of the individual receiving alimony. One such circumstance is when that individual begins living with another adult, such as a romantic partner, parent, sibling, or friend. Theoretically, by moving in with someone else, the person receiving alimony may be paying about half the amount he or she was previously paying for rent or mortgage, utilities, and groceries. Because sharing a residence can lead to a modification of alimony orders, people who are receiving alimony must be mindful of the potential ramifications before moving in with someone else.
Other circumstances that may warrant a downward modification of alimony include increased earnings by the person receiving alimony, whether through a new job, a promotion, a business creation, or an inheritance.
On the other side of the coin, there may be a substantial change in circumstances impacting the finances of the person paying alimony. The person paying alimony could move for a downward modification if his or her ability to pay alimony is negatively impacted by an involuntary job loss, a disability that limits or prevents him or her from working, or a medical problem that causes the accrual of expenses not covered by insurance.
When can the person receiving alimony seek a modification?
Individuals receiving alimony can seek an upward alimony modification if they suffer some sort of hardship, such as if they lose their job, they become disabled and cannot work, or they suffer a health problem that requires additional expenses not covered by insurance.
How does the process work?
The person who wants the alimony order to change has to file a motion. The person filing the motion has the burden to prove that the substantial change of circumstances has happened. If that burden is met, it’s up to the trial judge to determine if alimony should be changed at all and, if so, by how much, or whether alimony should be terminated all together.
It’s important to keep in mind that when a person seeks to modify the alimony order due to a substantial change in circumstances, the individual cannot have intentionally caused that change in circumstances without good reason. For instance, individuals who quit their job to retire at age 45, absent a disability, cannot come to court and claim they can no longer pay alimony as ordered. However, if the individual is 67 years old, this may be allowable. It will be up to the trial court to decide.
What will the court consider?
Whether a modification should occur is fact-specific. The facts that substantiate or provide a legal reason under Connecticut law for a modification have been tried at length, with many different sets of circumstances adjudicated by Connecticut courts. The family law attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns Feldman & Britt are highly knowledgeable about what these circumstances are, and we can quickly triage a set of facts brought to our firm so that we can provide adequate advice upfront as to whether or not a modification can be pursued or defended.
The family law attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns Feldman & Britt serve as trusted advisors and represent clients in divorce litigation and appeals in Connecticut. If you are considering a divorce or seeking a modification or appeal of your divorce orders, contact our family law attorneys at 860-206-9096 or online.