Can Alimony be Modified?

Alimony is support paid by one ex-spouse to the other. Depending on the circumstances, it can start during the divorce process and last a spouse’s lifetime. Lives change over time, and alimony can too, either with the parties’ agreement or a court order. 

The alimony amount is usually based on the parties’ incomes and is often determined by the couple’s financial situation. The amount may be negotiated up or down in light of how the marital assets are split. 

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., often helps clients with alimony modifications. The only permanent thing is change. An alimony award that may have been fair and reasonable five years ago may need to be changed today. 

What Types of Alimony Are There? 

Alimony is usually considered rehabilitative or reimbursement, though an ex-spouse may get both, based on the case’s facts: 

  • Reimbursement: Alimony that is meant to pay back one spouse for aiding the other with a significant expense, like education or starting a business. 
  • Rehabilitative: This is usually awarded for a given time so the receiving spouse has time and resources to receive training or education to become self-supporting. 

If there is little chance that an ex-spouse will support themselves in the future, the party may be awarded “permanent” alimony. Based on how the parties’ lives play out post-divorce, this “permanent” alimony could stop if the person receiving it remarries or lives with a new partner. 

How Can a Party Modify the Alimony Amount They Pay or Receive? 

Unless they previously agreed otherwise, all types may be modified due to either party’s changed circumstances. It will not be allowed if there is no mention of future alimony modifications in a divorce agreement. 

If one party wants to increase or decrease the payments and cannot resolve the issue with the other, it can be decided in court. Under Pennsylvania law

“An order entered pursuant to this section is subject to further order of the court upon changed circumstances of either party of a substantial and continuing nature whereupon the order may be modified, suspended, terminated or reinstituted or a new order made.”  

When making this decision, a court will consider 17 factors used to determine if alimony is necessary and, if so, the amount when the couple divorced. Some of those factors include: 

  • The parties’ relative earnings and earning capacities  
  • The parties’ ages and their physical, mental, and emotional conditions  
  • The parties’ income sources  
  • The extent the person’s earning power, expenses, or financial obligations will be affected by being a minor child’s custodian  
  • The parties’ standard of living during the marriage 
  • The parties’ assets and liabilities 
  • The property brought to the marriage by either party 
  • The parties’ relative needs 

Common grounds for an ex-spouse paying alimony to try to stop or reduce it include a loss of employment and developing a long-term physical or mental disability. A party receiving alimony could ask for more if the party paying it has a substantial and continuing income increase.  

No matter which side you are on, if you are asking the court to modify alimony payments, there must be evidence to support your claims because there is a process to go through, and you have the burden of proof. Speculation and opinions will not help. We can obtain evidence concerning your position through the discovery process. If necessary, we can also retain experts to analyze what we found. 

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., if you have questions about or you need legal assistance with an alimony modification. Call us at (866) 311-4783 or complete our online contact form today.