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.