How to Reduce Alimony Payments

How to Reduce Alimony Payments

Learn more concerning what courts are going to consider when making determinations about decreasing alimony.

When marriages end, it’s not unusual for one spouse to pay alimony (also referred to as “spousal maintenance”) to the other throughout and following the divorce. Read below to find out how to decrease alimony payments if are no longer able make them.

COVID-19 Update: The coronavirus pandemic has led to millions of people losing their jobs and courts striving to continue operating. Keep reading to find out how these changes are going to impact your ability to pay and alter alimony payments.

Go over Your Alimony Agreement and Court Order for Limitations on Altering Alimony

The first step you need to take is to go over your alimony agreement and court order to determine if they clarify anything about altering support. Many marital settlement agreements and/or court divorce judgments include provisions that determine the conditions of alimony payments, such as how much is going to be paid every month and when the payments are owed.

Alimony agreements and/or orders might include other particular terms, like:

  • when alimony concludes—this could be a particular date or be associated to an event, such as the supported spouse remarrying
  • when alimony can be altered (modified)—for instance, if the paying spouse loses their job or
  • that alimony is non changeable, meaning alimony can’t be increased or reduced for any reason.

You are Required to Demonstrate a Change In Situation and Acquire a New Alimony Order

When your settlement agreement and/or alimony order doesn’t address the matter of when alimony can be altered, then either spouse is open to request for an alteration to alimony by filing a petition with the court.

Prior to you heading to court, you may try communicating to your ex to see if you are able to come to an agreement about a decrease in support. Make clear your situation and ask if you can decrease or temporarily delay support payments.

If you can resolve this with your ex, put the new agreement in writing and present it to a court for their approval. If a court approves the decreased amount, a judge is going to issue a new alimony order.

When you can’t come to an agreement, then you are going to need to petition a court for help. A paying spouse that is no longer able to pay alimony must demonstrate why the decrease is warranted. In order to persuade a judge to decrease (or possibly terminate) alimony, the paying spouse is required to show a substantial change in the financial situation of one or both spouses, like:

  • the unintentional loss of a job or wage decrease
  • an ailment or disability that hinders the paying spouse from getting a job
  • the supported spouse got remarried or is co-habiting with a new partner, or
  • the supported spouse has gone through an increase in income.

The alteration in circumstances needs to be considerable though—a judge isn’t going to grant a decrease based on an insignificant adjustment to either spouse’s income or other financial means.

Commonly, when you submit a request to reduce alimony, you submit paperwork that details your financial information, comprising of income (if any), costs, assets, and debts owed. Your ex is going to have to do the same along with the answer to your request. You can typically find links to the documents you are required to file online at your local court’s website.

Following a motion to alter alimony has been filed, the court is going to allow the spouses to carry out “discovery,” in which means each ex is going to be entitled to ask the other to present any additional financial paperwork required to demonstrate the ability to pay support and/or the requirement for financial support, like paystubs, tax returns, and financial records.

If you and your ex can work this out, put the agreement in writing and present it to a court for their approval. When a court accepts the decreased amount, a judge is then going to issue a new alimony order.

Getting Assistance Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic

Because of the pandemic, just about every state has presently issued shelter-in-place orders, in which requires people to stay at home, except for necessary needs. These orders have also constrained non-essential businesses to shut down until notified otherwise. As a consequence, millions of those in the US have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment. Thousands of businesses have also been forced to shut down, in which for a lot of them, has resulted in severe financial loss and permanent closings.

What can you do when you owe alimony and have lost your job or have been financially impacted by COVID-19? Say you’ve become ill and are unable work? You may qualify for various financial assistance through local, state, and/or federal methods, as a result, might allow you to continue to pay alimony. If you discover that you simply are unable afford alimony, and you can’t come to an agreement with your ex, you are going to need to petition a court for help.

Even though a lot of courts are temporarily closed for the reasoning of decreasing the spread of the virus, many family law courts are still hearing emergency petitions. Altering alimony is not usually deemed an emergency, however, your state and/or local court might have approved temporary procedural modifications to assist those impacted by COVID-19.

Examples of Assistance

For instance, the Judicial Council of the California Courts has approved Emergency Rule 13, in which makes it easier for people to petition for modification to their financial support orders throughout statewide pandemic health emergency. Look online and find out if the judicial branch of your state and/or your local family court of law has issued any provisional orders in which may be beneficial in the term of altering alimony throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the California, Emergency Rule 13 it enables judges to backdate support orders to the date the petitioning spouse mailed and/or served the petition on their ex, instead of the date the petition was filed within the court. Meaning that even if there is a delay in filing or determining your petition to decrease alimony, a judge can make the decreased support amount backdated to the date that your ex was served. Make sure to retain your proof of service on your ex to present it the court.

You need to also look into your local and/or state court websites for information on filing methods. Many courts are enabling motions to be left in outside drop boxes enabling the court clerks to get and then file them.

When you have questions concerning altering alimony, you need to speak with a local family law attorney for counsel. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, family law attorneys are remotely working and are still available for meetings and new client consultations by phone or virtual meeting services, such as Google or Zoom.


    1. Lina Guillen, A. (2021, February 17). How to reduce alimony payments. Retrieved December 2, 2021, from

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