To modify or reduce spousal support in California, a prospective client will need proper legal advice. The process can be complicated and confusing. The experience of a family law lawyer is essential. In this article we’re going to discuss how to reduce spousal support in California from the perspective of the obligor spouse. The obligor spouse is the spouse that is paying support.
Every spousal support reduction in California should go through a three-step process.
Step one is understanding and analyzing the order you are seeking to modify. Step two is identifying the change of circumstances that has occurred since that order. Step three is gathering the evidence necessary to show that a material change of circumstances has taken place.
Once these three steps are completed, you are ready to reduce your California spousal support order.
Reduce Spousal Support in California By First Understanding and Analyzing the Order
If you do not plan and prepare for your modification request, you may be doomed before you even start the process. It is not enough simply bring a modification and reduction of spousal support request and hope for the best. A spousal support modification request that is denied can result in monetary sanctions and attorneys fees against you if you failed to bring the request for modification with good cause and with sufficient evidence.
The first step in the process is reviewing your current order. This may surprise you but not all spousal support orders are the same. I’m not just referring to the spousal support amount ordered but the manner in which the order is written.
- Does your spousal support order actually identify the marital standard of living?
- Does your spousal support order go into the specific factors that were taken into consideration and were used to arrive at the spousal support number?
- Does your spousal support order expand or limit the reasons for modification?
These and other questions have to be asked before you even consider whether a downward spousal support modification request is appropriate in your particular case.
Our experienced family law attorneys can carefully review the spousal support order for you and determine whether or not your path to a reduction is easier or more difficult as a result of your order.
Reduce Spousal Support in California – What is the Material Change of Circumstances Since the Last Order?
Identifying a material change of circumstances is a critical part of any spousal support reduction request in California. That is because the court does not have the power to make any downward modification of spousal support unless you can show the court that there has been a material change of circumstance since the most recent order.
What is a material change of circumstance? There are many examples but the most common are:
- A reduction in your income.
- An increase in the income of your ex spouse.
- A change in the lifestyle or financial status of you or your ex-spouse that justifies a downward modification of spousal support. This does not necessarily mean a change of income but rather a change in the asset base or asset to debt ratio. Falling on hard times even when your income is the same, may be grounds for a downward modification just as your ex-spouse’s upward change in lifestyle or asset-base can serve as good cause. One common example of this can be your ex spouse receiving an inheritance.
- Your ex-spouse’s cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex.
Do not confuse the necessity to show a change of circumstance with certain events that cause a termination of spousal support in California.
For example, unless you have an unusual spouses support order, your ex spouse’s remarriage is grounds for an automatic termination of the spousal support order.
In addition, especially in short-term marriages, if your support order has a specific clause that terminates the court’s jurisdiction or even sets spousal support at zero, these events can cause a termination of spousal support. Since in this article we are focused on a downward reduction of spousal support and not its complete termination, we are not going to discuss these terminating events.
Do You Have the Evidence to Reduce Spousal Support?
Now that you have identified a change of circumstances, it is important that you take the first element and the second discussed above and gather evidence in support of it.
What does mean?
If your grounds is a reduction in your income then you have to be prepared to show the court that your income is less than what it was at the time the spousal support order went into effect.
Hopefully your spousal support order states what your income was so we can simply rely on the last order when comparing then with now.
However, don’t panic if it does not. We can look at your income at that time including what you declared in your income and expense declarations and what the evidence showed and then do an analysis of your income today to account for the difference.
If your grounds are an increase in your ex spouse’s income, evidence may require a little more work to get. After all, your ex-spouse may not be so willing and forthcoming with his or her income just to help you reduce support.
In such situations you have a legal right to ask your spouse to complete an income and expense declaration and your spouse has a legal obligation to provide you with that within 30 days of your request. If your spouse fails to do so, your spouse can be monetarily sanctioned for the lack of cooperation.
If your reduction grounds are not based on income but rather a change in either your or your spouse’s asset or asset to other economic factors, you must be prepared to submit evidence of that. If the evidence is not immediately accessible, you and our family law lawyers will be prepared to subpoena the necessary information that establishes this change of circumstance in support of your spousal support reduction request.
What Is the Next Step to Reduce the Order for Spousal Support?
That is easy. Contact our knowledgable and experienced family law attorneys by calling 714.937.1193 or completing our contact us form.