Modification of Alimony

In many divorces one spouse may be obligated to pay alimony, maintenance or spousal support to the other. Alimony is usually awarded in cases when the couple has been married for a number of years and there is a disparity between the incomes of the two spouses.

Alimony may be awarded as a lump sum or a series of payments over a specified period of time.  The award may be temporary or permanent, depending on the specific circumstances in the case. For example, sometimes, temporary maintenance is needed to give the recipient spouse time to obtain the schooling and/or training needed to re-enter the workforce. Other times, ongoing spousal support is necessary in order for the recipient spouse to maintain a similar standard of living that the parties enjoyed during the marriage.

Following a divorce, time and circumstances may change that could greatly impact the financial situation of either party. When this happens, one of the ex-spouses may want to revisit the original divorce decree or settlement and seek a modification or termination of spousal support.

When does Alimony Terminate?

There are some instances when spousal support automatically comes to an end. The death of either spouse is one such event, as well as the remarriage of the recipient spouse. It is important to note that although cohabitation (on the part of the recipient spouse) may provide grounds to modify or eliminate alimony, this does not happen automatically. It must be determined by the court based on how long the couple has been cohabitating, as well as any provisions written into the divorce settlement that address this issue.

It is also important to note that lump-sum alimony cannot be terminated. A payor spouse cannot be reimbursed for alimony that he or she has already paid in the past, they can only adjust or eliminate the support payments going forward. The only possible exception to this rule would be fraud.

When can Alimony be Modified?

It is possible to modify spousal support in Kentucky, but it may not be easy. To seek a modification, there must be a “material change in circumstance” that is ongoing and has made the original alimony award unwarranted or unreasonable. The official language is that it makes the original award unconscionable under KRS 403.250. This is a difficult standard to meet, although not impossible.

There are many as life changes that may qualify under this standard, but you must also be prepared to present a strong case to the family court and effectively articulate the reasons why alimony should be modified. Some of the circumstances in which a court may approve a modification of spousal support include:

  • Loss of Job: If the payor spouse loses his or her job, this of course would make it very difficult to maintain alimony payments to the recipient spouse. If, on the other hand, the recipient spouse loses his or her job, they may ask for an increase in support. Generally this is only for loss of job through no fault. It does not include loss of job if fired for cause or if you quit.
  • Illness or Disability: If the payor spouse becomes seriously ill or disabled, this can result in a permanent inability to work, as well as high medical bills. With this type of situation, it can be strongly argued that this spouse can no longer afford to pay the same level of alimony, or in some cases, any alimony at all. And if the recipient spouse becomes seriously ill or disabled, they could argue for an increase in support. Parties should note whether disability insurance or other income is available.
  • New Obligations: New obligations could affect the ability of the payor spouse to maintain the current level of support. One common example is if this spouse has a new child with another partner who needs to be supported. Note: this is generally disfavored since the original obligation arose before the new obligation.
  • Retirement: Retirement might cause a significant and permanent change in financial circumstances. However, courts do not always see this as a qualifying modification event. As with most other situations, the success of a modification petition due to retirement depends on the specific circumstances and the strength of the arguments presented to the court. This does not fly if there is a separation agreement since this could have/should have been contemplated at the time of agreement.

Need Legal Help with Alimony Modification in Kentucky? Contact your attorney. If you need advice or representation, contact Michael Bouldin at Bouldin Law Firm by using the contact information, calling 859-581-6453 or email mike@bouldinlawfimr.com.

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