Can You Modify or Terminate Permanent Alimony in California?

Hossein Berenji, Jun 27, 2023

Alimony is financial support paid from one spouse or domestic partner to another when the marriage ends. There must be a need for financial support and the ability to pay support for a judge to order alimony in California.

Some states have begun to abolish long-term or permanent alimony. California is not one of those states. Judges can still order long-term spousal support during a divorce or separation.

If you are paying permanent alimony in California, you might wonder if you can modify or terminate your alimony payments. Before you do anything, it is wise to consult an experienced Beverly Hills spousal support attorney to learn about your rights and legal options.

When Do California Courts Order Permanent Alimony Payments?

In most cases, permanent alimony is awarded only in cases involving long-term marriages. For marriages that lasted less than ten years, spousal support is typically paid for one-half the time the marriage lasted. Therefore, if your marriage lasted five years, you might pay alimony for 2.5 years.

There is a presumption that marriage is long-term if it lasts ten years or longer. However, California law allows judges to determine that permanent alimony is justified even in marriages lasting less than ten years. Judges do not set end dates for alimony payments for long-term marriages.

Marital agreements might set the amount and duration of alimony payments. The court should uphold the agreement between the spouses if the prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is valid. The marital agreement could override that presumption even if a spouse could have received permanent alimony.

Couples can also negotiate agreements for spousal support payments. The couple may engage the services of a mediator to work with them and their Beverly Hills divorce lawyers.

Can Permanent Alimony Be Modified in California?

If you experience a significant change in circumstances, you can petition the court to modify permanent alimony payments. Either spouse can request the court to modify spousal support.

Common reasons people file petitions to modify permanent alimony in California include:

  • The person receiving support payments no longer needs financial assistance.
  • The person paying alimony experiences a significant decrease in income.
  • The person receiving support payments remarries.
  • The person paying alimony is incarcerated.
  • Either person misrepresented their income and/or assets, and that misrepresentation would have impacted the decision for support.
  • The person receiving alimony payments is not making a good faith effort to become self-supporting.
  • The person paying support becomes disabled or retires.

Both parties can agree to modify permanent alimony payments. They sign an agreement and present it to the judge for signature. The court files the order, and the alimony payments increase or decrease based on the agreement between the parties.

However, if the parties do not agree to modify permanent alimony, one spouse must petition the court. The party seeking a modification order has the burden of proving that the modification is justified.

Can Permanent Alimony Be Terminated in California?

Ending permanent alimony requires a court order or a written agreement between the parties. Long-term alimony payments also end if the supported spouse remarries or if one of the spouses dies.

If your ex-spouse does not agree to terminate permanent alimony, you must file a motion with the court. Again, you have the burden of proving that a significant change in circumstances justifies terminating long-term spousal support.

Terminating permanent alimony can be challenging. The courts award long-term spousal support for a reason. They will not end the payments without good cause.

Reasons why judges might grant petitions to terminate permanent alimony include, but are not limited to:

  • The ex-spouse receiving support remarries
  • The person paying alimony is over 65 years old and wants to retire
  • The ex-spouse receiving spousal support has a significant increase in income and/or resources
  • The person paying support has a significant decrease in income that is not within their control

Working with an experienced Beverly Hills alimony lawyer gives you a better chance of success. It is unwise to stop paying alimony payments without a court order granting relief. You could face considerable legal consequences if you don’t pay alimony payments in California.

A court could issue a wage garnishment order for alimony payments. They could also levy your bank account or take your tax refunds. Continued failure to pay alimony payments could result in contempt of court, which might include jail time.

Understandably, there could be situations in which you cannot afford to pay your spousal support payments. If so, talk with a Beverly Hills divorce lawyer immediately. The sooner you obtain legal advice, the sooner you can take steps to resolve the issue.

Contact a Beverly Hills Family Law Lawyer Today

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates Divorce Lawyers today to know how we can assist you.

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