For many divorcees ordered to pay spousal support in New York, circumstances change over time, and the maintenance you have to pay no longer be fair or equitable for your circumstances. Depending upon the terms of your divorce settlement and whether your ex-spouse is willing to modify the agreement, it may be possible to alter the original order. If you cannot agree to a modification of your spousal support order, you may need to go to the State Supreme Court or Family Court and ask a judge to approve your request.
It is essential to understand that such petitions are challenging to get approved without proving that there has been a substantial change to your circumstances. Our firm wants to help you better understand this process and the value of working with an experienced New York divorce lawyer, like Kate Ryan, to modify your spousal support order successfully.
What is a Modification of Maintenance?
A payor (party paying the support) or payee (party receiving support) can file a motion with their court to increase or decrease maintenance paid. There are a few conditions that typically determine the lifecycle of such an order under New York DRL § 236B(a), including:
- The award is modified
- One of the spouses dies
- The supported spouse remarries or has a new partner who they represent as a spouse
How to Modify a Spousal Support Order in New York
State law requires the party requesting a modification to file a motion with the court requesting such a change. Convincing a judge to modify your spousal support order may be difficult, mostly if it was part of a settlement agreement that was merged into your ordered divorce judgment.
Parties that settled their divorce and agreed upon spousal support after July 19, 1980, cannot modify their terms without proof of extreme hardship suffered. This means that if you need a reduction in support after losing your ability to work, you must show the court that continuing to pay that order will cause you extreme hardship. Merely losing your job is not enough in the eyes of the court, especially if you still have a substantial retirement account and investments to see you through. The court may also impute any income you may have earned if you voluntarily left a job for a new career that pays significantly less.
Any determination made by the court will be made on a case-by-case basis and require extensive proof of your circumstances to warrant a modification. If you need to request a change, consulting with a knowledgeable New York divorce lawyer may be your best first choice. Not only will this legal professional have a thorough understanding of spousal support laws, but they know how to best position your argument to the court to achieve a modification.
When Is It Appropriate to Modify Spousal Maintenance/Alimony?
Several situations may convince a judge to grant your spousal maintenance modification request. Typically, these situations would involve any of the below but do not guarantee approval for your petition:
- You or your spouse experience a 15% change in income
- Your life circumstances undergo significant change because of events like loss of work capacity or your ex-spouse remarried
- At least three years have passed since the spousal support order was created or previously modified
These reasons for needing a modification to your support order will still have to be established with evidence in court. Examples of evidence that can substantiate your need for a change to the initial ordered support amount include:
- Financial records
- Medical documentation, billing, and statements from your doctor
- Work history evidence
- Financial assistance programs that you or your ex-spouse participate
For example, an unexpected medical issue like terminal cancer has affected you or your spouse, and the medical costs have led to financial ruin. Any demand for reduction or increase of maintenance payments must have an extreme and demonstrable need for the change.
Before you attempt to file a modification request with your family court, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer about your situation. Having representation with you every step of the way through this process will better your chances of achieving the modification you need.
Why Hire a New York Spousal Maintenance Attorney?
If you or your ex-spouse are petitioning for an increase or decrease in a spousal support order, you may not have realized the level of evidence needed to get the request granted. If you both agree to the change, you will likely not have any issues with the court approving your petition. In situations where you or your spouse do not agree to the modification, this warrants the skills of New York divorce Attorney Kate Ryan, familiar with state spousal maintenance law.
The staff at the Law Offices of Katherine Ryan, P.C., has a proven track record of successfully representing these types of complex financial cases in the New York Supreme Court and Family Court systems.
Attorney Kate Ryan Can Help
Attorney Katherine Ryan, P.C., works with her legal team to provide you sound advice and a personalized client experience, which will ensure any support modification we represent gets the best possible representation in court. She understands that times change, and previously ordered support may not suffice or may be overburdensome for your current life circumstances.
As a 2020 Super Lawyer, she puts her years of experience to work in creating a compelling argument with evidence-based litigation to help you achieve a spousal support order that is fair to you and your best interests. Her law office provides family law services to clients in Garden City, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and Long Island.
Contact the Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C. today for a comprehensive evaluation of your family law issue.