If an ex-spouse who is paying spousal and/or child support experiences a substantial change in circumstances, can he or she apply to have spousal or child support reduced or even terminated?
Michele E. D’Onofrio’s Answer:
Yes, if the payor experiences a substantial change in circumstances, he or she may apply to have his or her support obligation reduced or terminated.
There is a two-step process in determining whether modification of alimony is appropriate: (1) whether there was a prima facie showing of changed circumstances, and (2) whether the supporting spouse has the ability to pay.
When an alimony order is reviewed, the primary factors assessed to determine whether the former marital standard of living is being maintained are: the dependent spouse’s needs, that spouse’s ability to contribute to the fulfillment of those needs, and the supporting spouse’s ability to maintain the dependent spouse at the former standard.Although the supporting spouse’s current income is the primary source considered in setting the amount of the alimony award, his or her property and capital assets are also proper elements for consideration.
Child support orders may be modified upon a prima facie showing of changed circumstances as well. Once a prima facie showing of changed circumstances has been made, the Court may order the submission of the other party’s tax return and financial information, including his or her Case Information Statement.
However, a modification of a child support or spousal support obligation is not warranted if the change in circumstances is only temporary or is expected but has not yet occurred.