A spousal support, or maintenance, order is not definitive. Under the right circumstances, it can be amended, or terminated all together. Over time, you may experience a life-change that will ultimately affect your ability to pay spousal support. Such a change may constitute a legal modification to the spousal support order. If your circumstances have changed, and you have a spousal support order that needs modifying, then promptly consult an attorney who is uniquely qualified to handle your case.
The New York court tends to frown upon frivolous modification petitions. With that being said, it is important that you understand that modifications will not be granted simply because the petitioning spouse feels as though the original spousal support order is not fair. The burden of proof lies with the petitioning spouse. The New York court must be shown that the spouse has indeed experienced life-changes or suffered extreme hardship. The court is staunch about what it considers grounds for spousal maintenance modification. The following life-changing eventsmay be considered by the court in determining a spousal support order modification:
• The payer suffers a job loss;
• The payer enters the retirement phase;
• The receiver secures a significant increase in salary;
• The receiver suffers extreme health problems (long-term illness).
Clearly, a job loss will prevent the payer from making consistent and timely spousal maintenance payments. Although the payer may petition the court to take this event into consideration, the court will also investigate whether or not the job loss was the payer’s fault, or not. Plus, the court will investigate the payer’s actions just to make certain that the payer is not intentionally becoming unemployed or underemployed in an attempt to evade paying the spousal support payments.
During retirement, the payer’s present income will not be maintained. In fact, the payer’s lifestyle will probably significantly change. Such a change will prompt the payer to petition the court to decrease the dollar amount of the spousal support payments.
Now that the receiver has attained a healthy job promotion, perhaps those maintenance payments are no longer needed. Since the receiver is now self-sufficient, the payer may petition the court to terminate the spousal support order, or to decrease the dollar amount at the very least.
The receiver has been stricken with a long-term or terminal illness. Clearly, the payer’s present lifestyle will suffer a blow. Income will not be generated because the receiver is too ill to maintain a job. As a result, the receiver will ask the court to modify the spousal support order by increasing the support payments.
Although there are many reasons to seek a modification, there are only a few that will result in an automatic annulment of a spousal support order. The death of either spouse will terminate the original spousal support order. The spousal support order will cease to exist when the termination date specified by the court has been reached. The remarriage of the receiving spouse will also lead to its cancellation. And, in cases whereby the receiving spouse is actually cohabitating with someone else (gender neutral), meaning they are living together like spouses and not just spending the night several times a week, the spousal support order will automatically be voided.
Whether you are the paying spouse or the receiving spouse, you still need the expertise of an attorney to help you navigate this arena. Petitioning the court for the modification of a spousal support order can be challenging. However, if you are the paying spouse, then an attorney will ensure that your present financial situation is accurately reported to the court. It is important for the court to be made aware of the financial demands in your life. If you are the receiving spouse, then an attorney will make certain that your spouse is not hiding any unreported income. Either way, you need an attorney who will listen to you, and then proceed to get you what you want.