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Can an alimony order be modified in the future?

UPDATED: February 20, 2013

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Whether or not an alimony order can be modified will depend on the specifics of the situation. The flexibility of alimony payments may depend on the duration of the marriage and other specifics of the settlement.

Circumstances Under Which an Alimony Order Can Be Modified

In some cases, dual income spouses who were married for a relatively short time may irrevocably waive their right to seek alimony from each other in order to avoid protracted litigation. This waiver will then become part of the final Judgment of Dissolution, and thereafter each spouse will be prevented from seeking alimony from the other. There would then be no way that one ex-spouse could seek alimony from the other, regardless of circumstances.

In other cases, a court may order the payer spouse to make certain alimony payments to the supported spouse for a set period of time. This is often referred to as temporary alimony. Before the expiration of that time, the supported spouse may petition the court to modify the amount or duration of alimony payments based upon a material change of circumstances since the previous alimony order.

Another possibility, which may occur in the event of a long marriage, is that the court may issue an ongoing alimony order with no end date or may continue to oversee the amount and duration of alimony payments. This could be referred to as permanent alimony. When permanent alimony is awarded, either spouse may petition the court to modify the amount and duration of alimony payments, based upon a material change of circumstances since the previous order. A common example occurs when the supported spouse remarries. In such a situation, the payer spouse may petition the court to reduce or eliminate alimony payments since the ex-spouse is now receiving support from a new marriage. However, remarrying is not necessarily an automatic reason for existing alimony payments from a past marriage to be stopped.

Conditions for Modification of Alimony Payments

Whether or not a modification to alimony payments will occur is based upon a number of factors including state law, the decisions made by the prior courts, agreements between the spouses involved, and any agreements that may already be in place (i.e., prenuptial agreements). There may also be other state-specific factors or individual factors that affect whether a divorce alimony order will or will not be changed. If you are having issues with an alimony order, either as a payer or a recipient of alimony payments, it's in your best interest to become familiar with the legal documents involved with your case, and to seek the assistance of a qualified attorney if it becomes apparent that a court case will be necessary.

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