The divorce is final; you have settled on the agreement and are receiving alimony payments. But what happens if your ex-spouse loses their job? Your agreement may need a modification.

Significant Changes Impact Agreements

In California, the court allows ex-spouses to seek modifications to their divorce agreement if there are significant changes to their life circumstances. The loss of employment from a paying ex-spouse would qualify as such a significant change.

The paying ex-spouse can argue that the loss of income necessitates a downward modification to the spousal support agreement.

Modifications to the Agreement Require Proof

However, such a modification would not be instantaneous. The paying spouse would have to prove the significant loss of income with documentation and might require a witness to bolster the case. A judge could also determine that the paying spouse could soon obtain a job with a similar income, depending on the person's profession and the prospective jobs that might be available. The ex-spouse may need to prove existing good faith efforts to obtain employment.

Gaming the System Can Be Punished

The ex-spouse must also prove that unemployment was not deliberate. Many people have tried to "game the system" by intentionally and strategically becoming unemployed to avoid paying spousal or child support. The court usually sees through such a gambit, and the strategy could easily backfire.

Increases in Your Income May Decrease the Spousal Support You Receive

If your income has increased significantly, your ex-spouse can request a downward modification in spousal support. For example, if your income has increased more than the spousal support you were already receiving, your ex-spouse can make a strong case for decreasing support.

Decreases in Your Income May Increase the Spousal Support You Receive

If you lose your job or suffer a significant loss of income, you may petition the court for increased spousal support by requesting an upward modification of your agreement. As with downward modifications, you must prove that you are making good faith efforts to find employment with a similar income to your previous job and that an upward modification to the payments you receive is necessary. It may take weeks of job hunting or longer to prove to the court that your circumstance is not temporary but more of an ongoing situation.

Settling Out of Court is Usually Faster

If you can reach an agreement with your ex-spouse and skip court altogether, it can save you time and aggravation. Life often moves faster than court proceedings, and sometimes your financial needs can't always wait for approval from the law.

However, not everyone has an amicable or understanding relationship with their ex-spouse. In those cases, an out-of-court settlement might not be possible. You will need the court and a great lawyer to help you get what you need.

Park Family Law Can Help

Do you need an upward or downward modification of your spousal support amount? To help you obtain the best results, call the attorneys at Park Family Law.

Whether you need an experienced mediator to amicably and efficiently settle your case or an aggressive litigator to get you the best results in court, Park Family Law can assist you every step of the way.