When Can You End a Lifetime Spousal Support Award?

Alimony concept. An envelope with cash on a table.

Lifetime spousal support awards can be extremely distressing for the payor. They can cut deeply into the payor’s lifestyle, and leave him or her tethered to a spouse who they’d hoped to see the last of.

And when the award is “for life,” the situation may sound hopeless. But alimony can be modified, or even ended.

Modifying Alimony

You can get a modification of alimony if your circumstances change significantly. For example, if you lose the job upon which your alimony payment was based, then you can take this change back to the judge to have the payment reduced or even eliminated.

You do have to demonstrate a significant change in circumstances, and demonstrate that you haven’t become unemployed or underemployed on purpose.

See also: Can You Go to Jail for Failing to Pay Spousal Support in Pennsylvania?

Of course, your ex can try to make some modifications of his or her own.

Ending Alimony

Alimony typically terminates when the other party remarries. It also ends when your ex begins cohabitating with a girlfriend or boyfriend, even if they are not yet married, and even if they have no plans to get married.

Don’t get jealous and unhappy when your ex finds someone new: inform the court.

And if it takes you awhile to find out, don’t worry. The judge can order a retroactive end to payments, which means your spouse would have to pay back the full amount of alimony he or she received when he or she wasn’t entitled to it.

All this is, of course, contingent on the absence of a clause in your divorce order which might compel you to keep paying alimony regardless of your ex’s marital status or living situation.

See also: What is the Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support in Pennsylvania?

Avoiding the Problem 

The best way to handle this situation is to avoid it altogether. There are several ways you can do that. 

One would be to offer a lump sum. That can be painful when it happens but it allows you to free yourself from future obligations.

Another would be to reduce or eliminate alimony payments in exchange for a greater share of marital assets.

If neither of these work, ask your lawyer to negotiate a set period of time for which you’ll be paying alimony. The purpose of the award is to help your spouse get back on his or her feet without you. Six or seven years should be sufficient for your spouse to get an education, train for a new career, and start earning. In some cases it might take even less time. Don’t just sign off on lifetime alimony when your spouse is perfectly capable. Even older individuals are successfully launching new careers after returning to school.

This is one reason why lifetime alimony awards are getting rarer. 

See also: What You Need to Know About “Grey” Divorce.

Don’t do this alone.

You will absolutely need a lawyer’s help to ensure you don’t end up stuck with an alimony arrangement you can’t live with. And if you’re trying to modify or end an alimony arrangement, you will need someone who can help you make the strongest possible case. 

Call our office today to schedule a free consultation, and we’ll talk about how we can help you.

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