By Chelsea Payment, Attorney at Law
As part of the divorce proceedings, an Oregon judge may find that one spouse, who earns a substantially higher income, must pay alimony to the lower-earning spouse. Alimony payments may also be pre-determined by couples in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Alimony payments may support living expenses and/or educational expenses for the former spouse or serve as reimbursement for support they provided to their spouse during the marriage. It is always the preference of the court to honor the agreement of the parties, as it saves the court time and money if the individuals are able to come to an agreement on their own. However, the court will determine the alimony amount, when necessary, by weighing a number of factors, such as how long the couple was married, the sacrifices and contributions that were made to the marriage by each party, and the relative ability of each party to support themselves financially.
Changing the Amount
The amount of alimony that you agreed to, or that you were ordered to pay, was based on your financial circumstances and responsibilities at the time, and we all know that things can change. If your financial circumstances have changed—for instance, you have lost your job or taken a lower-paying job—or, the financial need of your ex-spouse has changed—for instance, they are now earning more than they were, or have remarried—you can file a petition to have the alimony amount adjusted accordingly.
It is important to note that generally the change in your circumstances must be involuntary and unexpected. In other words, if you quit your job, the court may not take pity on you since it was your choice to leave. However, there is a possible exception when you take a lower-paying job as part of a longer-term career plan. In these instances, if you can show that you took a lower-paying job in good faith, for instance, because it offered benefits or more stability or better potential for career growth, then the court will still consider reducing the amount of alimony you have to pay, even though it was a voluntary decision.
What to do if You Lose Your Job
If you lose your job, it is important to act quickly and to continue making any scheduled payments unless you have received different advice from a licensed Oregon Spousal support Attorney. Although you have the grounds to ask the court to adjust the amount of your alimony payments, losing your job does not automatically give you the right to stop payments—you still have to ask the judge permission first. Start by filing a Motion to Modify Alimony, or by having your lawyer file this. If successful, this motion can be backdated to apply through the date you served your ex-spouse with the motion to modify.
After you file, the court will schedule a hearing to determine whether to adjust your payments. At this hearing, you will need to present evidence to support the change in financial circumstances that you are alleging.
Contact a Spousal Support Attorney
If you have questions about spousal support payments, or your financial circumstances have changed and you need your payments adjusted, contact an experienced Spousal Support Attorney today.