Reducing Alimony in California

What are the proper grounds for a reduction in alimony?

Post judgment alimony modifications

It is common for a spouse ordered to pay spousal support to seek a modification at some point after the judgment. On this page, we only write about post-judgment modifications and not modifications while a divorce is pending.

First, let's go over the basics. A spouse who seeks a modification of spousal support must show a material change of circumstances since the judgment. That means the spouse must provide evidence to the court that since the judgment entry, an event or events have occurred that justify the court to modify spousal support.

These events cannot be trivial. That is why the word "material" exists. What is material?

Reducing alimony in California

There are many different types of potential material change of circumstances that may occur. The more common ones include:

  1. A downward change in the supporting spouse's income,
  2. An upward change in the supported spouse's income,
  3. The supported spouse's cohabitation with a non-marital partner,
  4. The supported spouse's reduced need for support due to accumulation of wealth including, as one example, inheritance, and
  5. The supporting spouse's retirement once that spouse reaches retirement age.

The above are not the only events that a court may consider a material change of circumstances.

The supporting spouse must file a formal request for order with the court

This request for order asks the court for the modification. The request for order is not a simple document to draft. We strongly suggest you hire an experienced family law lawyer because these requests for order are easy to screw up.

The above of course assumes the ex-spouses were unable to resolve the issues. Our family law firm likes to give the other spouse an opportunity to resolve the issues before we file a request for order. That way, we can potentially save our client thousands of dollars if the supported spouse agrees to the downward modification. And if the supported spouse refuses to agree to the modification, even though there are proper grounds for the modification, we can use that unreasonable refusal as grounds to seek attorneys fees later in the post judgment proceeding.

Post judgment modifications often involve an analysis of Family Code 4320

This is the code section a judge must consider in every spousal support matter at judgment or post judgment. However, even though the court must consider it, the court may place less emphasis on it if there is a significant passage of time since the judgment. That is because with a significant passage of time, the supporting spouse's need may become as important if not more important than whatever the marital standard of living used to be.

Learn more about California Family Code 4320 by checking out our California alimony law guide.

Click on the links below to learn about other important California alimony topics.