By Lynda King
A divorce might be the end of the marriage, but not to your obligations toward the other person. One of these ties is often alimony, the obligation of the high-earning spouse to provide regular financial support to the lower-earning spouse. The amount is set on a series of factors, including expected earnings. When these circumstances change due to job loss, the alimony can be altered with court approval.
Understanding How Alimony Works
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a form of financial support offered by one spouse to the other after divorce. This court order is legally binding, and it requires the higher-earning spouse to contribute regular payments to the lower-earning spouse. The deciding factors for setting the alimony amount change from state to state. However, these are some of the main considerations:
- Expected earnings of both spouses.
- Expected expenses of both spouses.
- If the alimony would ensure a lifestyle close to what the spouse was used to during the marriage.
- California alimony laws also take into account the amount paid for child support.
The Impact of Losing Your Job on Alimony
Job loss can make respecting alimony payments impossible. In some cases, unemployment will lead to reduced alimony payments. However, for any changes to be considered by the court, you must first submit a petition. Offer a detailed account of how your financial situation has altered due to job loss. The course of action depends on the approval of your former spouse.
If Your Former Spouse Approves the Changes
Start by informing the other party about your new financial situation and help them understand your predicament. If they agree to changes in the alimony amount, it will help ease modifying the initial court order. Once you have clarified this, you may proceed with filing a formal motion. However, since you already have the other party’s approval, the changes should be approved without further complications.
If Your Former Spouse Doesn’t Approve the Changes
A less favorable situation is when the former spouse fails to see eye to eye with you on the issue. In this case, you must appeal to the court with a convincing case. Here are some aspects that the court will take into account:
- Current unemployment status. They will take into account the length of your unemployment period and any new employment. If you have managed to find a job quickly, the salary difference can be a reason for changing the alimony amount. If your salary is similar, then your financial obligations to your former spouse will most likely remain the same.
- The voluntary nature of unemployment. The court will consider the possibility of leaving a job voluntarily as a means of lowering or avoiding alimony payments.
- Other income sources. Losing a job might not have a huge impact on your lifestyle if you have other sources of income. If a court finds that you have a significant financial cushion to fall back upon, they might not consider job loss a valid reason for altering alimony payments.
Unemployment Caused by COVID-19
The job market has suffered a considerable hit under the COVID-19 pandemic across the U.S. In April of last year, unemployment levels were at 14.8%, but until December, these declined to 6.7%. Still, a rather high percentage. Ongoing hardship caused by the pandemic can be considered as a valid reason by the court to alter the initial alimony agreement.
Seek Legal Advice
Unemployment can have a major impact on your financial situation and lifestyle. Under these new circumstances, providing alimony based on the initial agreement might not be feasible anymore. To ensure that you get your case across to the court clearly, consider seeking legal advice. A lawyer can offer a clear picture of your options and prospects. Since procedures and regulations vary between states, it is advised to consult with a California law specialist.
About the Author
While she had a solid education in law, Lynda King wanted more than a job as a lawyer. She knew that people needed information and a better understanding of everyday legal matters, so she began writing articles and guidelines to educate individuals and businesses. Now, Lynda is collaborating with Farzad & Ochoa Family Law Attorneys, being proud that her knowledge and writing talent are helping everyone every day.