Spouses who need help starting over or transitioning to single life after a divorce have the option of requesting spousal support (also called alimony). Both the party who receives the support and the one who pays it can generally, at a later date, ask the court to modify the payment terms. That’s because New Mexico allows spousal support modification in certain cases.
Not all spousal support orders can be modified, and some requirements must be followed if you are requesting a change. That’s why it pays to have the experience and dedication of Attorney Bob Matteucci on your side.
Can your spousal support order be modified?
The first question that has to be asked is whether your alimony order or agreement can be changed at all. In New Mexico, an order for spousal support, typically included in the Marital Settlement Agreement, will state if the amount can be changed. For example, lump sum alimony is usually designated as non-modifiable.
If your spousal support order or agreement is eligible for modification, then the party requesting it still has to prove there has been a substantial change in circumstances. What qualifies as a substantial change will vary from one case to another, so be sure to consult a knowledgeable attorney if you’re ready to modify.
Reasons For Support To Be Modified
There are several reasons that either the paying or receiving party may rely upon to modify the previous order or agreement. It’s up to the party requesting the change to work with their ex-spouse to agree to a new amount or, if necessary, go to court and convince the judge that the circumstances warrant it. A few of the most common reasons for parties to modify alimony are:
A change in the paying party’s income. When alimony is first determined, the judge has to consider the paying spouse’s ability to pay. So if this ability changes through a job loss or decrease in pay, then the paying party can ask for a modification.
Bear in mind, however, that the court will closely scrutinize the reason the paying party wants to modify. If there is a good faith reason, and not simply an attempt to evade the responsibility of paying alimony, then the judge may grant the request. That means considering whether the paying party is unable to find a new job or increase the amount of money he or she earns.
A change in the receiving party’s needs. On the other hand, the party who receives alimony can show the court that he or she is unable to meet their reasonable monthly needs. This means demonstrating that despite the amount of alimony being paid, he or she cannot become self-sufficient and therefore needs higher monthly payments. The receiving spouse’s age plays a role in this decision.
Generally, courts want ex-spouses to eventually be able to support themselves, so they will look at a request for more alimony with skepticism. Preparing for your hearing may require showing that while you need more, the paying party is also able to afford it. If your needs have increased while the paying party’s income has also increased, this will help your case.
Retirement. Similarly, the paying party’s retirement can affect whether alimony will continue (or continue in the same amount). As with a request based on job loss or a drop in income, the court will seriously evaluate the motivation behind the paying party’s motion to modify. An early retirement, or sudden decision to retire, will be met with higher scrutiny. However, a retirement based on age or disability is likely to support a request to eliminate or decrease spousal support.
Remarriage. If the receiving party gets married again, alimony will usually terminate automatically. However, the paying party may be required to file paperwork to formally end his or her obligation. Be sure to talk with your attorney first, even if you believe the remarriage automatically ends your responsibility to pay spousal support.
Cohabitation. A receiving party who begins living with someone in a romantic relationship may be jeopardizing their ability to continue receiving alimony. Or, they may not need as much. That’s because in theory, the person they live with will provide financial support. If you suspect the receiving party is living with someone else, speak with your attorney about whether cohabitation may terminate or reduce your obligation.
Death. If the paying or receiving party dies, the obligation to pay alimony might automatically terminate. This isn’t always the case, however. Also, the paying party may be required to carry life insurance so the alimony can continue being paid after death.
Expiration. The alimony obligation may simply expire. The judge in your case might have required, or you might have agreed, that you would pay alimony for only a certain amount of time. If you’re getting close to the expiration date of your spousal support duty, ask your attorney if it will be necessary to file a motion to terminate it.
Other terms in the order or agreement. Any other terms in the court order or Marital Settlement Agreement may terminate or alter your obligation to pay spousal support. It’s essential to have an attorney review your court order or agreement to understand whether these terms apply in your case.
How a Spousal Support Modification Attorney Can Help
Whether you are the party who pays or receives alimony, talk to a New Mexico family law attorney. Your lawyer can help prepare a motion to request the judge to change the terms of your spousal support. On the other hand, your attorney can also help you defend against the other party’s request to increase, decrease, or terminate alimony. Even provisions that may appear to automatically modify or end spousal support should be closely examined.
You may need evidence to support your claim or oppose the other party’s motion. For example, proving the other spouse is cohabitating with someone might require the assistance of a private investigator. Your lawyer will assemble the evidence needed in your case.
Contact Bob Matteucci, a Successful New Mexico Spousal Support Modification Attorney
Matteucci Family Law helps both paying and receiving parties modify spousal support when life changes require it. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to advise you of your legal options.
Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with spousal support modification matters all across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.