Can Your Former Spouse Stop Paying Support If they Lost Their Job?
Just as money can be one of the primary causes of divorce, finances can also be one of the most significant sources of contention during the process. Should one spouse claim support or alimony? How much should it be?
Because the divorce process can quickly turn into a bitter battle for money, couples often need to work with their divorce attorney and the court. The former can help determine how to divide the assets, depending on the state rules.
The court, meanwhile, can judge whether one spouse is entitled to spousal support or alimony, as well as the duration of the support, and use a specific formula to calculate the amount.
One of the underrated questions of the many situations that may arise during the discussion and the process is, what happens to spousal support if the spouse becomes jobless? Can they ask the court and their former partner to stop the payments?
No Universal Decision
Before one dives deep into the answer, they need to know more about spousal support. Also known as spousal maintenance, it is a payment from one spouse to the other during or after a divorce.
Its purpose is to help the spouse who is not earning as much maintain their standard of living post-divorce. The court may also demand it if one of the spouses lacks the ability to earn a living due to age, illness, or disability.
The length of the spousal support varies, ranging from a few months to an indefinite period. Sometimes the ex-partner receives maintenance until they can find a job.
Because of the significant impact of spousal support, a spouse who has to pay it needs to have a job. What if they lose it then?
There’s no universal solution to the situation. It all depends on the state and the laws they have in place. For example, a person may request a modification of an existing support order if there’s a substantial change of circumstances, such as loss of employment or a significant decrease in income.
The court may also decide to lower the support payments if the person can prove that they are making a good-faith effort to find new employment.
If the spouse receiving the payments is not looking for a job or cannot work, then the court is less likely to make any changes. They may also be less inclined if the unemployment is temporary.
In contrast, if the spouse is willfully unemployed, the court may terminate or suspend the payments. The court may also terminate or suspend the payments if there’s a chance that the marriage was a fraud. In other words, one of them committed unconscionable acts such as entering the marriage while they were still married to another person.
Overall, some of the factors the court need to address include:
- Duration of unemployment
- Kind of employment the spouse obtained after a job loss
- Reason for job loss
- The capability of the other spouse to generate income
- Whether there are any other sources of income
- Need for financial assistance from the state
- Effect on the children in terms of lifestyle, expenses, etc.
Ex-couples should note that while the decision rests with the court, they can still sit down and figure out a solution together. Some states allow for agreements between the spouses about spousal support and modification of it, which can be made without court intervention or approval.
They need to ensure that every term they agree upon is fair and reasonable because it may become part of the final judgment if such an agreement is not reached during the divorce.
How to Avoid Complicated Judgments
Regardless of the job loss, most experts advise couples, particularly those who provide the maintenance, to not stop the support. Usually, they still need to pay the arrears, which means that they will pay significantly more over a particular period.
Instead, they can consider these steps to avoid complicating the situation:
- Find a job as soon as possible.
- Build a better civil relationship with the former spouse.
- Maintain records of job-search activities.
- Keep excellent communication with the ex-spouse’s lawyer.
- Strive to find work that pays as much as the former job.
- If possible, try to agree on a modification of spousal support.
Job loss creates a unique situation when it comes to spousal support payments. The court has a lot to consider, including whether to suspend or end the payments, if agreement modifications are necessary, and the reasons for the job loss.
But spouses can also do something to avoid aggravating the situation. They can collaborate or negotiate with the help of their lawyers.