Modification of Spousal Support – Part 3 (things to think about)

It is important to note that, in this economy, both the person paying spousal support and the person receiving it can experience a substantial, unanticipated change in circumstances. For example, if the purpose behind an original award to a party was to allow that party the time to increase his/her earning capacity through education or other means (often the purpose of a “transitional” support award), and that party, as a result of the unanticipated economic downturn, is not able to find the anticipated employment at the anticipated income rate, then the receiving party may also be justified in requesting a modification of support.

There are two important things to note when attempting to modify support, whether as the party paying support, or the party receiving support. The first is this: courts can only make support modifications retroactive to the filing of a motion to modify support. In other words, if your suffering to make support payments, taking action sooner rather than later is extremely important. Next, for those who are receiving support, if circumstances haven’t panned as anticipated at the time of dissolution, your right to modify support expires when the support obligation is over. In other words, you must move to modify (either to extend the duration of support, or to modify the amount, or both) before the time when your right to receive support under the original judgment has passed.


There are a number of considerations which go into any request to modify spousal support. This blog is specific to the current recession. It must be remembered that a decrease in income, or the inability to find a job, is but one consideration among potentially many others in a modification case. Nevertheless, it may well be an important consideration. There aren’t many people who anticipated the current economic downturn. If the payment of support under a judgment drafted when things were good has become near impossible, or if the support being paid under an old judgment has proven inadequate, then you may need help to modify the situation. If you are like the “regular guy” who I overheard while watching basketball, you shouldn’t feel bad about circumstances that may be out of your control. Spousal support is not meant to be a punishment (though it may seem that way to some). It is not meant to leave a party with no resources. If the economy has caused an impossible situation for you, whether you are paying or receiving support, you may want to contact an attorney to see what can be done about it.

If you would like more information on spousal support modification, please contact Stephens & Margolin LLP in order to schedule a consultation.

Please view parts 1 and 2 of this post:  Part 1 (; Part 2 (

About Jon Berman

Born in Connecticut, Jon is a graduate of Columbia University where he majored in Political Science. After working for several years on Wall Street, he went on to the University of Connecticut School of Law where he graduated near the top of his class. Prior to joining the firm, Jon practiced family law at the Washington County office of St. Andrew Legal Clinic.To find out more or contact Jon Berman, visit Stephens & Margolin LLP
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4 Responses to Modification of Spousal Support – Part 3 (things to think about)

  1. When I divorced 6 years ago I was tagged with indefinite spousal support. At that time my ex got part of my retirement account and spousal support of 900/ month. She has since received a sizeable inheriatance from her grandparents. She received enough to buy a house. I estimate the amount she received to be $140K or more. Can I take her back to court and ask for a modification? What are my chances of getting the amount reduced? I am having a hard time getting a mortgage to get my own home. The banks don’t want to lend to me due to my huge spousal support and child support payment. When the original support order was given it was figured that she would be renting or having a mortgage. It wasn’t figured that she would be given a chunk of money from her grandparents. She gets disability from the government due to her being “legally blind”. Also when I retire will my spousal support go away? She already got her portion of my retirement during the division of assets.


    • admin says:


      Generally speaking, the court can consider income and all resources available in determining if a modification is appropriate. A sizable inheritance by the support recipient after your divorce may be a good reason to terminate or reduce her support. I would have to look at the actual divorce judgment to see the reasons why support was awarded. Support modification can’t be done retroactively, only prospectively from the time you ask for it, meaning that the longer you wait, the longer you pay. I strongly encourage you to contact our office (use contact form or phone number) or another lawyers office to arrange for a consultation to go over your particular set of facts.

  2. J. Flynn says:

    I have a transitional spousal support paying my ex $1,700 plus 30% of my Commission/Bonus. In 2010, I received a job promotion that yielded a slightly higher base salary but the Commission/Bonus picture was reduced dramatically. Over the last 5 years, my income dropped 25% and over the last year dropped 12%. My ex-wife had a part time job and continues to stay at the same job and has not pursued any full time employment and/or education in order to transition to a new income level. In addition, I also support my children with not only Child Support each month until they are 21, but I contribute to their college costs. Their mother does not contribute any money at all to the children. The childeren also live on their own in apartments and do not spend any nights at their mothers hokme. There is no requirement stipulated in the Divorce Decree that either party must help pay for college, I feel that is it important to support the children through college. Can I go back and get the Spousal Support reduced under these conditions? If so, what is a realistic value and is it worth it to go through all the work and cost?

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