It may be possible to modify your spousal support obligations. While you can’t modify a non-modifiable agreement, it is possible to adjust a modifiable agreement. You can request a modification if there is a significant change in circumstances. For instance, if your ex-spouse remarries, if you suffer a severe financial setback, or if there are changes in the law, the agreement can be open to proportionate changes.
Changes in Circumstances
Life moves forward after divorce. Incomes change, new relationships form, and legislative actions change the law. Some legislative changes may serve as grounds to request a modification. These changes in circumstances include:
- Cohabitation or Remarriage. If your ex-spouse starts cohabitating or gets remarried, you can request a modification of your spousal support obligations. Many modifiable and non-modifiable agreements contain provisions for reduction or termination of payments when these events occur.
- An Increase in Income. You can request a modification if your ex-spouse receives a substantial increase in pay, or receives a significant inheritance and no longer requires your financial support.
- A Decrease in Income. You can seek to modify your spousal support payments if you suffer a significant financial setback. For example, if you lose a job, a reduction in pay, or if you experience an accident that results in a disability that diminishes your earning capacity.
- Birth of a Child. If you are the payee and have a new child, you can request a modification based on the hardship payment of the existing spousal support agreement creates for the child.
- Legislative Changes. Changes in law are rare, but they do occur. You can request a reduction or termination of payments when changes in the law create a qualifying reason for such a move.
- Death. Unless otherwise agreed upon, the death of either spouse terminates the payor’s spousal support obligations. However, it’s important to note that if the payor dies and is responsible for child support, the individuals’ estate can be charged for these funds.
Requesting Temporary Modification of Spousal Support
The court can choose to grant a temporary reduction in your obligations. They may do this in the case of illness that causes temporary disability, a job loss, or a seasonal reduction in income. The court will consider the nature of the request and determine a set period to reduce the payment obligation.
Arizona courts cannot impose non-modifiable support obligations. These must be agreed to by both parties. Once agreed upon, these agreements are final. While this can provide security and stability to both payee and payor, it also means that should a change in circumstances occur, support obligations cannot be modified outside of the terms agreed upon by both spouses.
The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld non-modifiable support agreements. They have ruled that it is not possible to terminate these agreements even when significant changes in circumstances occur because such a move qualifies as a modification. As of now, Arizona courts will only grant a termination of a non-modifiable spousal support agreement when fraud or duress are involved.
Preparing for the Process
Your first step is to file a petition to modify spousal support. Once this petition is served, both parties must disclose their financial position, including exchanging Affidavits of Financial Information. This is followed by a post-decree proceeding, settlement, or evidentiary hearing. How long it takes to complete the modification process depends on the strength of the evidence and whether the other party contests the request.
Contact Simon Law Group, PLLC at (480) 210-4981 for more information about spousal support in Arizona. It is our pleasure to answer your questions and represent your interests during the divorce process.