Are you overpaying spousal support? Do you want to end alimony? California courts use a formula to calculate what you should pay to an ex-spouse, but sometimes circumstances change and so should your spousal support/alimony terms. You should talk to a family lawyer about modifying or ending alimony you think the circumstances have changed. There are guidelines in place in California family law that make sure you’re not stuck with an outdated court order.
This webpage covers these following topics to help you learn more about the possibility of ending spousal support:
- Spousal Support Laws
- Reducing or Ending Alimony
- Can You Stop Indefinite Spousal Support?
- The Effect of Remarriage on Spousal Support
- Modifying Your Spousal Support Terms
- Working with a Family Lawyer to End Spousal Support
Long-term Support Laws
- Permanent Alimony (alimony for life)
If you would like to learn more about alimony, take a look at our Spousal Support and Alimony page. For the purposes of this webpage, we will be looking closer at long-term spousal support, also known as indefinite spousal support.
California Family Law Code 4336 states:
(a) Except on written agreement of the parties to the contrary or a court order terminating spousal support, the court retains jurisdiction indefinitely in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties where the marriage is of long duration.
(b) For the purpose of retaining jurisdiction, there is a presumption affecting the burden of producing evidence that a marriage of 10 years or more, from the date of marriage to the date of separation, is a marriage of long duration. However, the court may consider periods of separation during the marriage in determining whether the marriage is in fact of long duration. Nothing in this subdivision precludes a court from determining that a marriage of less than 10 years is a marriage of long duration.
(c) Nothing in this section limits the court’s discretion to terminate spousal support in later proceedings on a showing of changed circumstances.
The general rule, but not absolute, is that a marriage of 10 years or more is considered a long-term marriage. With long-term marriages, the court holds indefinite jurisdiction (ability to make decisions about the marriage). On the other hand, if spousal support is ordered for two years, then the court’s jurisdiction ends after two years.
If spousal support is ordered for a couple of long-term marriage, there is a good chance that it was for one spouse to pay the other spousal support for an indefinite period of time, until the supported ex-spouse remarries or passes away. However, because of the statute above, the court can make changes to the order if needed. So there is hope of ending alimony. That gives you the chance to end the spousal support if circumstances allow and the judge deems is appropriate for both parties.
Can You Stop Indefinite Support?
In the section above, we established that the court has indefinite jurisdiction in divorces of long-term marriages. So, the short answer is, “yes” you can stop indefinite spousal support, but there are limitations. If you and your ex-spouse do not see eye-to-eye on ending alimony, then you will need to go through court to prove your reasons for wanting to stop spousal support.
Some people see indefinite spousal support as permanent, so they end up paying spousal support even through retirement. Some senior citizens find themselves paying alimony to an ex-spouse who is receiving the same amount of social security as they are receiving themselves. It’s an unfair practice even though the law attempts to make things fair for a divorced couple.
The truth is, you can get out of this “permanent” spousal support trap with the help of a good family lawyer. Circumstances that may allow you to end spousal support are:
- The supported ex-spouse refuses to go to work to support him/herself
- A recession is making it impossible for you to continue meeting your spousal support obligations
- You lost your job or earn significantly less than when the original order was made
- The ex-spouse is cohabiting
- Your ex-spouse is doing well in supporting him/herself now
Some attorneys might tell you that there’s no end in sight for paying a lifetime of spousal support, but it is possible, provided that you have the right circumstances. You’ll want to read about Gavron Warnings. Here is a good example. In the case of Greg and Michelle’s divorce after 17 years of marriage, the court was able to reduce Greg’s payment from $2000/month to $1000/month, and also set an end date. The reason being that Michelle had the ability to become self-supporting by termination date of spousal support. Under the guidance of a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney, you will have a better chance at ending alimony and ending your spousal support obligations.
The Effect of Remarriage on Support
When a former spouse who is receiving alimony gets remarried, the alimony payments automatically end in California. This leaves a loophole for people to cohabit in place of becoming legally married. They live with their significant other, but still receive spousal support from an ex-spouse. Although the spousal support order is terminated when he/she remarries, you may need to file a termination of wage assignment if there is one in place. A wage assignment is an order for your employer to deduct from your paycheck to pay the spousal support.
If you suspect your ex-spouse has remarried and has not disclosed this to the court, contact a lawyer immediately. Ending alimony and ending spousal support is easier if one spouse is lying to the court.
Modifying Your Support Terms
If there are significant changes in either your life or your former spouse’s life, there is a good chance you can have the spousal support or alimony modified. If you are on friendly terms with your ex-spouse, you both can agree on a change out of court. If both parties can’t come to an agreement, you’ll need to file a motion with the court asking for a modification, this includes a motion to end the spousal support.
When the circumstances change, you need to file the motion with the court as soon as possible. If you lose your job and 3 months passes before you decide to request a change in the spousal support, the judge is not allowed to go back to the day you lost your job. The judge only looks at the circumstances from the date that you filed for modification.
- Fill out your court forms
- Have your forms reviews by the court’s family law facilitator or your family lawyer
- Make at least 2 copies of your completed forms
- File your forms with the court clerk and pay the fee
- Get your court date
- Serve your completed form and a blank response form to your ex- spouse
- File a proof of service
- Go to the court hearing
To schedule a court hearing and ask for modification or the ending of spousal support, use this form FL-300. Although Form FL-157 is optional, it provides the judge with the factors needed in considering changes in long-term spousal support. You should take a look at the optional form to see what you have to prove to the judge in order to make the change you are requesting. Better yet, discuss it with a spousal support attorney who can make it easier to understand. Ending alimony or ending spousal support is extremely tough without the expertise of an attorney.
Working with a Family Lawyer – Ending Alimony
The proceedings for ending alimony and spousal support is complex and require evidence to make changes. A family lawyer in California has experience with modifying or ending alimony, so they can navigate the steps in the process more efficiently. Call our lawyer for an over the phone consultation to discuss your likelihood of getting the spousal support order changed. Again, don’t wait until it’s too late after the change of circumstances to file a motion.
Helpful Link – the impact of domestic violence on alimony.