Circumstances change. Three years ago, you got divorced and were ordered to pay spousal support. Three years ago, you had a job. Three years ago, you didn't have a new baby. Your ability to pay spousal support three years ago is much different than your ability to pay today.
So, can you ask for a reduction in spousal support?
Changing Spousal Support
Alimony, or spousal support, balances the payer's ability to pay and the supported spouse's need. If circumstances change significantly enough, the court can consider reducing spousal support payments. Below are some changed circumstances that may warrant a reduction.
Payer's Change in Circumstances
Lose a job
When the payer loses a job or has a significant reduction in income, the court will usually recalculate spousal support. This is the most common reason for reducing spousal support. However, keep in mind that the job loss or reduction in income must be involuntary. You can't just quit your job so that you won't have to pay spousal support.
Have a new child
A new financial obligation such as having a child can be grounds for reduction. Claiming you have new financial obligations because you just bought a new car does not count.
Suffer a disability
If a disability affects your ability to work, you may be allowed to pay less support. However, if your ex-spouse suffers a disability, you may be required to pay more because his or her need may have increased.
Supported Spouse's Change in Circumstances
Get a job
When the supported spouse gets a job or has a significant increase in income, you may have to pay less as your ex's needs are less. Note that the increase in income has to be significant. A small raise isn't likely to be enough to justify reducing spousal support.
Move in with someone else
In California, there is a presumption that a supported spouse that cohabitates with another person has less need for support. This presumption is rebuttable, which means that the supported spouse will have a chance to prove that support is still necessary.
This presumption only works if the supported spouse lives with a nonmarital partner, specifically a romantic partner. You can't reduce spousal support if your ex-spouse moves in with a platonic roommate.
If your ex-spouse remarries, he or she is not your problem anymore! Remarriage is often grounds to terminate spousal support altogether. Just make sure that the other spouse legally remarries and doesn't just have a "commitment ceremony."
If your circumstances have changed, and you would like to request a reduction in spousal support, an experienced family law attorney may be able to help.