Sometimes, long after a divorce settlement has been arrived at, and many months of alimony paid out, there may come a need for changing the amount or terms of the spousal support. But how long does this kind of change take? And what are the things you need to have ready to ensure things move along smoothly?
Time taken for pre-divorce spousal support judgments vs. modifications
Spousal support modification needs you to go through a similar set of processes and steps as the procedure followed for the initial support order/judgment during the divorce. And the reason behind the need to follow the same procedure, is that by suggesting there is a need for changes to the judgment already in place, you or your ex believe that something has changed. In other words, the financial situation or circumstances have deviated quite drastically from the time the divorce came through. Which means that you will need provide proof of the new economic situation on either side, the need for the change, and urgency for such a change.
Unlike the original process which may have taken anywhere from six months to a year, the modification can be a little quicker in some cases. Especially if there was a clause in the original order that required say ‘$1000 to be paid with a review in 5 years’, then the process is smoother and therefore, faster.
Why it takes time
A spousal support modification doesn’t happen overnight. Hard though it might seem, having jumped through hoops the first time around, you can bypass any of the steps for the change. In fact, you will need to ensure you provide adequate cause for modification of the terms, a ‘material change in circumstances’. Even if the initial agreement did not prevent modifications, a judge may show some reluctance to make a change if the spousal support payments had bearing on how the other aspects of the agreement were settled.
In addition, if your ex disputes their income status or expenses, or contests the change, you will need to first make a case or settle the dispute or let a judge decide as your attorneys battle it out in court.
Changing spousal support in emergencies
There are two scenarios where the spousal support modifications may need to be dealt with more urgently. If you are in a tight spot, having lost your job and have alimony payments that are due shortly, be sure to raise this with your attorney so that they do not accumulate as huge arrears due to your ex when you do get a job. If you are the spouse receiving the support, and have a huge change in your situation, medical emergencies or other reasons for needing a fast change to the amount you get, again, you will need to be sure to flag this off upfront, although courts often find financial issues to be non-emergencies if an ex parte request for relief is sought. Be sure to consult your divorce attorney to fully understand your options.
Gerald A. Maggio is an experienced Orange County divorce and family law attorney and family law attorney located in Irvine, California, serving the Orange County and Riverside areas. Mr. Maggio assists clients with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, divorce mediation, child custody, prenuptial agreements, stepparent adoptions, and other family law issues. Mr. Maggio has practiced law in California since 1999, and founded The Maggio Law Firm in 2005, focusing exclusively on divorce and family law matters.