What You Need to Show to Modify Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance — known familiarly as alimony — is money that one spouse pays after a divorce to help the other spouse maintain a certain standard of living. While maintenance awards are based on the recipient spouse’s needs and the paying spouse’s resources at the time of divorce, those circumstances can change over time. When this happens, a former spouse may seek a modification of spousal maintenance to accommodate their altered financial situations.

Arizona law permits former spouses to seek modification of spousal maintenance only at certain times and for certain reasons. The first question is whether the maintenance award was determined by a judge or set by an agreement between the spouses. If there was an agreement specifying that the spousal award cannot be modified, then a court will be prohibited from doing so. If there was no agreement, the court that originally ordered maintenance retains jurisdiction over any future modifications.

The court will modify an award only if a party shows that they have experienced a “substantial and continuing change in circumstances.” For the recipient spouse, such a change could be a drastic reduction in income, a job loss or a disease or disability that results in unmanageable health care costs. The paying spouse may seek a downward modification if their own financial situation deteriorates due to job loss, retirement or their own health issues. The payer may also seek reduced spousal maintenance if the recipient moves in with a new intimate partner, thereby reducing his or her expected expenses.

The spouse seeking modification has the burden of proving the alleged change in circumstances. In Arizona, within 20 days of filing a request for modification of a maintenance order, both spouses will be expected to submit affidavits disclosing their financial situations in order to provide the court with an up-to-date picture of their circumstances. The court may also require additional documentation to help it assess whether the request is warranted. Requesting a modification of spousal maintenance is not an easy or straightforward process, An experienced spousal maintenance attorney with knowledge of the criteria courts use in these matters can assist you in carefully crafting your request as well as in assembling the documentation necessary.

At Clark and Schloss Family Law, P.C. in Scottsdale, we frequently help divorced Arizonans obtain modifications of spousal maintenance awards. For a free initial consultation, please call our office at 602-789-3497 or contact us online anytime.