Maryland Divorce Attorney

Can Spousal Support be Modified?

patrickcrawford | December 20, 2018

There are many myths surrounding the issue of spousal support and relying on false assumptions can lead to unfortunate misunderstandings. This is why it’s important to understand that spousal support is very different from child support, relying on its own set of rules. By taking the time to learn about these rules and by consulting a professional family law attorney such as Patrick Crawford, you’ll be better informed about this practice.

Establishing Spousal Support

In family court, the judge mandates child support, establishing who will pay support, how much is to be paid, and how long support will last. This varies in some important ways from how spousal support is set up. Although the rules may vary from state to state, most states allow the parties involved to limit the court’s power in this regard.

When a couple divorces, their settlement agreement will detail the provisions for spousal support among other things. The couple agrees upon the terms for spousal support in advance, which is then included in the agreement. If they determine support payments, they cannot be modified in the future, it’s a binding stipulation and cannot be altered by a judge. Similarly, the couple may stipulate under which circumstances support can be modified, including how long it will endure.

Some couples stipulate specific provisions in which spousal support can be modified. For instance, they may allow the court to modify it, or they may establish that both parties must agree to the stipulation. There may also be allowances for a change, if one spouse experiences a change in income, or if one spouse becomes disabled.

Court-Ordered Spousal Support

In some circumstances, the court does exercise more control over spousal support. For instance, there are cases in which both parties are employed full-time and determine that paying spousal support is not necessary. Divorcing couples often waive this right to spousal support in an effort to expedite the divorce process. Once the right to spousal support has been waived, one spouse cannot later change their mind. If a spouse loses their job six months later, they cannot sue the other spouse for support to compensate for the loss of income.

Sometimes, a judge will order temporary support to be paid. The order will designate how much is to be paid, as well as setting a deadline for the termination of support. If no action is taken prior to the deadline, such as requesting an extension for support, the payee will have no further obligation to pay support. Once the deadline passes, spousal support payments will cease.

As these conditions of spousal support suggest, it’s important to consult an experienced family law attorney as early as possible. Enlisting the help of The Law Office of Patrick Crawford will help ensure you don’t waive your rights to spousal support unless you fully understand the consequences. Additionally, your attorney will help you request modifications to the agreement in a way that will improve your chances for a favorable outcome. Sometimes, spousal support is needed to help you restart your life and that’s where The Law Office of Patrick Crawford can help.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Patrick Crawford, who has more than 16 years of legal experience practicing family law.