Due to coronavirus and the current economic situation in the world many people have started losing their jobs.
Besides other mandatory monthly payments (mortgage, rent, lease, credit cards, etc.) you might have been paying spousal support.
It is obvious that you don’t want to violate a court order that is why you are obligated to pay spousal support until your current order is modified or terminated.
Spousal support orders, either permanent or temporary, are modifiable throughout the support period except:
1. To amounts accrued prior to filing of a Request for Order asking to modify or terminate spousal support; or
2. Otherwise provided by an agreement of the parties or a court order.
Unlike child support jurisdiction (please see my previous article), spousal support jurisdiction does not necessary continue post-judgment and may be divested by the terms of a court order.
Unless jurisdiction to modify or terminate spousal support order has been expressly reserved by the order or impliedly reserved (retention of jurisdiction after lengthy marriages, marriage of 10 years and longer), post-judgment spousal support is limited by the stated duration of the order.
In marriages of long duration (10 years or longer) the Court retains jurisdiction “indefinitely” absent a written agreement of the parties to the contrary or a court order terminating spousal support.
The policy of the law is that spousal support orders be made in a manner that encourage that supported party to become self-supporting within a reasonable time (reasonable time is presumed to be one-half of the length of the marriage) and the failure to make good faith efforts toward self-support may be a factor considered by the Court as a basis for modifying or terminating support.
If the Court retained jurisdiction to modify and/or terminate spousal support then an order modifying or terminating spousal support generally can be made retroactively only to the date of filing the OSC or notice of motion to modify or terminate spousal support.
If the Court expressly reserved jurisdiction to amend temporary spousal support order based on further consideration of evidence it can be modified retroactively to the earlier date.
SPECIAL RULE FOR MODIFICATION BASED ON UNEMPLOYMENT:
A spousal support modification and/or termination based on the obligor’s or obligee’s unemployment shall be made retroactively to the later of the date of service of the notice of motion to modify and/or terminate spousal support or OSC for modification or the date of unemployment, unless the Court finds good cause not to make the order retroactive and states its reasons on the records.
If you lost a job and cannot find another one, don’t wait, and file a Request for Order (form FL-300) requesting to modify spousal support and serve it on your spouse (ex-spouse) as soon as possible.
NO RETROACTIVE MODIFICATION OF ARREARAGES:
Spousal support orders are not modifiable as to amounts (arrearages and interest on arrearages) accrued before the date of filing the notice of motion to modify and/or terminate spousal support or OSC for modification. See Family Code Sections 3603 and 3651(c)(1).
BASIS FOR MODIFICATION:
As a general rule, Family Law Courts may grant a spousal support modification if the party seeking the modification shows a material change of circumstances since the most recent order and which exists at the time of the modification hearing.
For example: decrease or increase in either party’s income available for support is a material change of circumstances.
The aforementioned rule applies to modification and/or termination of a permanent spousal support order.
The majority view is that temporary (pendente lite) spousal support modification is also subject to the material change of circumstances rule. But there is also contra authority, stating that it is not necessary to show a material change of circumstances to modify temporary spousal support.
It is important to know that once a year after entry of a marriage dissolution, legal separation or paternity judgment providing for support, either party may demand from the other party production of a current income and expense declaration accompanied by the prior year’s federal and state personal income tax returns.
If you want to verify your ex-spouse’s income then you need to mail to him/her a copy of the forms FL-396 and FL-150.
The forms can be found here:
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