When a court determines spousal support is warranted in a divorce, the award is not typically permanent and can be terminated early if conditions change.
Judges generally award spousal support (alimony) to give the person a runway to become self-sufficient. The timeframe for alimony is up to the judge but often equals about half the length of the marriage. A six-year union might mean three years of spousal support. Spouses can negotiate any end date in their settlement agreement.
Judges consider the totality of circumstances in requests to award or terminate spousal support.
Circumstances Evaluated in Determining Spousal Support
The court evaluates several factors before determining whether alimony should be granted to the requesting party. If there are changes in the conditions on which the alimony decision is based, the paying spouse may have grounds to ask the court to terminate their financial obligation.
The factors a judge evaluates in spousal support awards include the following:
- Each spouse's needs and the standard of living during the marriage
- Each spouse's ability to generate income to maintain that standard of living
- Whether the requesting spouse’s earning capacity was reduced by leaving the workforce to care for children and the home
- The supporting spouse's ability to pay spousal support
- A reasonable time the spouse may need to become self-supporting
- The supported spouse's ability to work without unduly interfering with the interests of children in that spouse's physical custody
- The age and health of each spouse
- The debts and assets of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- The level of support the requesting spouse gave toward the other spouse’s educational or career goals and prospects
- Any documented history of domestic violence
- The tax consequences of spousal support
- The balance of hardships for each spouse
The judge can also take into account any other factors they believe should be considered for a fair outcome.
Changing Circumstances Could End Alimony
The judge does not base whether to award spousal support on cherry-picked factors. They are charged with evaluating the situation as a whole before making a determination. The rationale for granting alimony could become moot if there are significant changes to the facts on which the original decision was based.
Spousal support automatically ends in California if the receiving spouse remarries or either of the former spouses dies. However, there can be arguments to end alimony early on other grounds.
The court will consider ending or modifying spousal support in the following cases:
- The receiving spouse receives a large inheritance
- The receiving spouse begins cohabitating with a romantic partner
- The receiving spouse became self-supporting earlier than expected
- The custody of children changed to the paying spouse
- The receiving spouse is convicted of domestic violence against the paying spouse within five years of the divorce filing
- The paying spouse loses their job with few prospects for new employment
- The paying spouse is retiring (but not to get out of paying alimony)
- The paying spouse becomes seriously ill or disabled, impacting their ability to pay
The judge must weigh any changing circumstances against all spousal support factors originally considered. Outside of the courtroom, former spouses can agree to modify or end spousal support.
Honest Cases Assessments for Terminating Alimony
If you believe your current spousal support obligations are no longer warranted, talk to our skilled legal team at Palmer Rodak & Associates. We will offer an honest assessment based on your unique circumstances.
Schedule your consultation by calling (760) 573-2223 or completing our online form.