Alimony Modification

While many people think of divorce as one single action under the law, in reality divorce includes a number of different components. A final divorce decree, though it is issued in a single order, likely includes alimony orders, child support orders, parenting plans, property division orders, and custody orders, to name a few. All of these separate and important issues must be addressed in what many in Monroe Union County think of as a divorce decree.

Your Right to Contest

It is common for the parties involved in a divorce to be happy to finally have the marriage officially end in the eyes of the law. That being said, both former spouses may not be content with the actual specifics of the final divorce decree. For example, one spouse may not completely agree with the way property was divided, the custody plan, or the amount of alimony awarded. If this is the case for you, know that you have a right to contest any part of your divorce. Indeed, a divorce is a legal matter and -- like all other legal matters -- you do have the ability to request a reconsideration or modification of an order.

Keep in mind, however, that modifying a divorce order can be difficult in most divorce cases. This is because our legal system has a strong bias favoring the trial court. In other words, a judge reviewing the original judge’s order will give great deference to his or her decision before determining changes should be made. This can be particularly true regarding some aspects of the divorce, such as property division. Other aspects, however, such as alimony awards, can more easily be challenged and modified even if a divorce decree has been issued.

Modifying Alimony Awards

When a court determines that one spouse is a dependent spouse and the other is a supporting spouse, these classifications can be modified at a later point. In fact, these classifications are initial filings that are determined based on fact-specific investigations that were conducted during the divorce proceedings as well as based on the division of property. In short, these findings are meant to be viewed specifically to the facts at the time the determination was made and, consequently, are subject to further future review by a court. Nonetheless, Monroe Union County courts require a spouse challenging an alimony award to meet a high burden of proof as to why modification of the original alimony order is appropriate under the current circumstances.

Monroe Union County courts will look at several factors when initially determining whether or not an alimony award is justified. Some of these factors include:

  • Marital misconduct by one or more parties;
  • Assets awarded through equitable distribution;
  • Contributions to the family during the course of the marriage; and
  • A spouse’s related earnings as well as future earning potential.

While many of the above factors are fixed, everything is subject to change. For example, if a supporting spouse loses his or her job, this change will affect the ability to pay alimony. Likewise, if the dependent spouse comes across a financial windfall, he or she may not need to keep receiving the original alimony award.

Substantial Change in Circumstances

While it is possible to successfully modify an alimony award in Monroe Union County, courts in North Carolina commonly prefer to keep these matters as they are. Accordingly, a spouse who is challenging an alimony award bears the burden of showing why this modification is needed. North Carolina courts, like many courts across the country, require a moving spouse to show a substantial change in circumstances in order to succeed in an alimony modification. The change must relate to either the needs of the dependent spouse or, the supporting spouse’s ability to meet the current alimony award. If the moving spouse is successful, the alimony modification will be granted retroactive to the date the request was originally filed.

There are circumstances, however, in which alimony modification is not allowed. Specifically, North Carolina states a spouse who purposely decreases his or her income cannot have alimony awards modified. The same prohibition to alimony modification applies when the former spouses agreed on a particular alimony award in exchange for something else in their divorce agreement. Finally, a court will not consider any changes in circumstances that were considered in the original order.

Family Law Help

If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce or facing divorce in Union County or the surrounding areas and has questions about alimony, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. If you have already had a divorce finalized but are interested in modifying a previous alimony order, contact our firm, as well. All of the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have extensive experience and will fight on behalf of those facing legal divorce-related concerns.