What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support, or alimony, is a monetary award given to one spouse or domestic partner by the other, as ordered by a court during the couple’s divorce or separation. In some cases, support may be ordered if requested as part of a petition for a domestic violence restraining order. Spouses and partners can also come together and decide on an agreement as to support. The parties can then have a judge sign the agreement and have it entered as an order, just like any other support order. In cases of domestic partnerships, spousal support is known as partner support. The support can be temporary, lasting while a case is not finalized; or permanent (long-term), entered at the resolution of the case. Once a court orders one spouse or partner to pay support, that person has to keep paying the amount of support specified. This can change if a court orders a modification or terminates the support altogether. However, it is not possible to get a modification on a support order that states that it is not to be modified. It is important to make sure you know the exact terms of the spousal support order. In order to apply for a California support modification order,  the person applying for the modification, most likely the paying spouse, needs to show “changed circumstances.” That is, he or she needs to show the court that something significant has changed since the order was entered that makes the order as it is unworkable or inappropriate. The significant changed circumstances could be the loss of employment, imprisonment of the paying spouse, or even showing that the spouse receiving support is not really trying to become self-sufficient. You should seek modification as soon as the circumstances change; the court cannot recognize the change until a new order is in place. Until then, you will still owe the old amount.

How to Ask the Court for a California Spousal Support Modification Order

If you are the paying spouse and believe you can show the court changed circumstance, then you can follow the steps below to ask a court for a  California spousal support modification order. Note that if you can work out an agreement with the person receiving the support to reduce the amount, you can have that agreement signed by a judge and entered as the new order. This may be the most straightforward way to get a modification if both parties are on friendly terms. If you do not have an agreement, the first step is to fill out all the proper forms found here to petition the court for a change. There are fees required to file the forms, but depending on your situation, you may be able to get a fee waiver. You should have your forms reviewed before filing them with the court to make sure they are accurately filed. You can contact A People’s Choice for quality, inexpensive non-attorney help in completing the necessary forms to get a California spousal support modification. Before filing the forms, make copies for you and your ex-spouse, because the original forms will be filed with the court. You will then have to file the forms with the court clerk, and make sure that your former spouse or partner gets served with the papers. You will have to file proof of service with the court to show that the papers were served. After you file the papers, the clerk will give you a court date for a hearing. You must attend the hearing in order for the judge to hear your case. After the judge makes a final determination, he or she will enter a final order either denying your application, or modifying the earlier support order.

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