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Modifying spousal support in California

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Child Custody And Support, Child Support

California residents who pay or receive spousal support may petition the court to have the arrangements modified in certain situations. Both permanent and temporary spousal support orders can be changed if legal grounds can be established. However, they cannot be if the spouses agree in writing or in open court that the obligation to pay spousal support cannot be revoked or modified. In order to obtain a spousal support modification, the petitioner must convince a family law judge that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances.

Substantial and material

Petitions to modify spousal support are often made by former spouses who no longer have the financial means to meet their court-ordered obligations. These petitions may be submitted after a payor loses their job, retires, files for bankruptcy or suffers some sort of financial setback. If the presiding judge determines that the change in circumstances is unlikely to be permanent, they can order a temporary family law modification. If the change in circumstances is caused by age or ill health, spousal support modifications may be permanent.

Modification hearings

Both parties are given an opportunity to make arguments in a spousal support hearing. They are also required to submit documents that establish their current financial situations. Judges consider these requests carefully, and they may deny modification requests made by spouses who they believe have deliberately reduced their income to avoid making court-ordered payments.

Avoiding conflict

Spousal support modification hearings sometimes become contentious. People who wish to avoid conflict can agree in writing that their arrangements cannot be changed or revoked. If no such agreement is reached, a family law judge may decide that a spousal support order should be temporarily or permanently modified. However, the judge will only modify the order if they are convinced that there has been a substantial and material change in the either party’s circumstances.