In many California divorces, one party requests spousal support. However, it is not guaranteed for everyone. And those who do receive an order for support will likely learn that most orders will not last forever.

Often, support orders will end after a certain event or period of time. Before that happens, though, one or both parties may want to modify an order. This is possible, although there are some important facts about modifying support orders in California that you should understand.

When modification is appropriate

Modification can be appropriate in situations where one or both parties have experienced a material change in circumstances. Some of these changes include:

  • Early financial independence by the receiving party
  • Job loss or other form of economic hardship for the paying party
  • Lack of good faith efforts to become financially independent by the receiving party
  • The remarriage of the receiving party

Under these and similar circumstances, modification (like lower payments, fewer payments or early termination) makes sense.

If the parties can agree to a modification, they can present their proposed arrangement to the court for approval. It they cannot reach an agreement, one of the parties must file a motion and ask the court to make a ruling on whether to modify a support order.

Challenges that can arise

Keep in mind that spousal support orders are court orders. As such, parties must comply with them or risk various penalties. This means that people should not arbitrarily or informally modify their agreements. Doing so makes it very difficult or impossible for courts to enforce the order.

There can also be challenges if parties wait too long to explore their options for modification. The paying party can wind up having to pay more for payments they missed before the courts approve a change.

Further, challenges can arise if people seek modification without experiencing a material change in circumstances.

Taking action as soon as possible

If you want to change an order for spousal support, or if your ex wants to, seeking legal guidance right away can be crucial. Not only can it help you understand your options, it can allow you to avoid costly penalties and missteps.

Circumstances change after divorce. Making sure orders for support continue to be appropriate in light of these changes can be crucial in ensuring payments remain fair.