There are occasions after a divorce decree has been issued and the marriage is severed, that one of the spouses finds they are in need of spousal support. These occasions arise when a divorce is completed too impulsively, or when one of the spouses is under duress, or circumstances have changed significantly for one spouse. When any number of these situations occurs, it is imperative that the question of alimony be re-visited even after a divorce has been settled. However, in order for a judge to revisit the issue of alimony after a divorce has been finalized, the party seeking an award of alimony will have to show a significant change in circumstances.
By way of review, alimony is a type of spousal support one former spouse makes to the other spouse after a divorce. The rationale behind alimony was to keep the status quo of life quality the spouse in need of alimony had prior to getting divorced. An example of this spouse would be the stay at home mother that sacrificed a career to raise children and now has no money nor requisite skillset to provide for herself. Basically, alimony is intended to keep the dependent spouse from “the penthouse to the gutter.”
Prior to the spouses entering into a final dissolution of marriage, the spouses can agree upon alimony terms and payments, and judges rarely alter such agreements. However, if there is no agreement made between the spouses, then the court will review the financial capacity of each spouse based on each spouses’ ability to pay, earn, and meeting the needs of each spouse. Back in a time where men were the breadwinners, and women stayed home to rear children, permanent alimony was more common. In today’s society, where most men and women work and can support themselves, courts award alimony on a “rehabilitative” (i.e., temporary) basis to allow time for the dependent spouse to support themselves without the need of permanent alimony.
If after the conclusion of the divorce proceedings and one spouse does not ask for or receive alimony, but then finds the need for financial support, it is possible for a court to revisit the issue. In order for a spouse requesting alimony after a divorce to do this, they need to show “a substantial change in circumstances.” This could include a loss of employment, sickness, or any other unforeseeable circumstance that arose that was not intended or contemplated by the parties prior to the time when the divorce was finalized. If the alimony determination was made by the court without an agreement from the parties, then the threshold burden to prove this “substantial change in circumstances” will be a little lower than if the parties agreed to an alimony contract themselves.
If you have questions regarding divorce proceedings and alimony, please contact the Kendrick Law Group today at 407-641-5847, and our experienced attorneys will help you!