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Under what circumstances can I request a modification of an alimony award?

| Apr 17, 2021 | Family Law |

Even after a divorce is final, there may be reasons to revisit certain issues, particularly where support is concerned. Life circumstances and financial climates may change, which can necessitate revisions to existing orders.

You must understand the grounds on which you can petition a judge for a modification of an alimony award so that you know when and how to initiate such a request.

Why a substantial change is important

There are specific requirements that spouses must meet to successfully argue for an alimony modification. 231 Pa. Code Rule 1910.19 indicates that husbands and wives seeking support modifications must show that there’s been a “substantial change” in circumstances that warrants a change. More specifically, they need to show that one party has had either a major decrease or increase in income.

In other words, if your ex-spouse got a one-time bonus, that’s not likely to be substantial enough to warrant a modification to the support agreement you have — but a big raise might.

Various factors, including a chronic or terminal illness, a recent-onset disabling injury or the loss of a job, could be valid reasons for a family law judge to increase or decrease spousal support. Keep in mind that any such modifications may only be temporary.

Why you should check your support agreement first

Before asking for a modification, make sure that you review the existing support orders. Some of them include built-in cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) or have escalator clauses. 

An escalator clause generally entitles a recipient spouse to a fair share of any increase in pay that a payor receives. A COLA requires the spouse making the payments to increase the payments at a rate that is equivalent to their annual increase in salary.

When you need a modification request, seek help

You cannot modify a support order merely by oral agreements with your ex-spouse. If you think a modification of support is necessary, it’s best to find out more about your options. An attorney can review the situation and help you better understand what steps need to be taken next.