Divorce has a way of affecting your life for quite some time. Couples without children may hope for a clean break, but that isn’t always possible. Even if you divorced several years ago, you could still have to deal with the financial consequences of that divorce. Ongoing spousal support, also called alimony, is sometimes the result of divorce proceedings.
If your spouse didn’t work outside of the home and wasn’t able to support themselves at the time of the divorce, the North Carolina family courts could order support as a way to help them make ends meet. They could do the same if your spouse has medical issues that prevent the development of a career.
The longer your marriage, the more likely it is that a non-working spouse can successfully claim a need for alimony or spousal support. However, just because you stayed married for a long time does not mean you will have to continue paying that alimony amount in your divorce decree in full into perpetuity. As your life and financial circumstances change, you may need to look into reducing the amount you have to pay.
A modification is the official way to change support
While you might feel like the amount of support you have to pay isn’t fair, your ex probably doesn’t agree. In fact, they might feel like they should have received a larger amount of support. That can mean you’ll face opposition to your request to reduce the support. Taking informal action by reducing your support payments could leave you legally vulnerable.
Even if your ex agrees to reduce the support amount verbally, they could still request state enforcement efforts if you don’t pay the ordered amount of alimony in full. That could mean legal and financial headaches for you.
The only official way to reduce spousal support obligations is through post-divorce modification. Without a modification, you could remain vulnerable to enforcement actions related to unpaid support, up to and including the garnishment of your wages.
The courts may modify support orders when circumstances change
Maybe the company you worked for has filed bankruptcy and you lost your pension. Perhaps you have simply retired and your income is now much lower than it was when you were married. Regardless of what has caused a decrease in your income, you may be able to use that lower income level to convince the courts to reduce your support or even terminate the support order.
Determining what is fair and reasonable in terms of spousal support or alimony isn’t always straightforward. It is often best to speak with an experienced North Carolina family law attorney about your options before attempting to change your existing order.