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Is it possible to change or cancel spousal support payments?

Whether you pay or receive spousal support after a divorce, you want to feel like the order is fair and accurately reflects your financial needs and capabilities. Often, it takes considerable effort either through the courts or through negotiation to get to this type of agreement. Once you have an order in place, though, there can be a sense of relief.

However, this feeling may dissipate as time goes on. People change; circumstances change; needs change. And these changes can influence how people feel about their spousal support orders. Under these circumstances, it can be helpful to know if orders may be altered.

Changing an order or agreement

There are circumstances under which it can be necessary to change existing spousal support payments. This often happens when people experience significant changes that affect the fairness of the current spousal support order or agreement. 

For instance, you might seek a change if:

  • Either party experiences a significant shift in income
  • Either party failed to provide full financial information when determining the original order or agreement
  • There is evidence of coercion or manipulation when reaching an agreement
  • The agreement or order is very old or no longer meets the goals of spousal support

Cancelling an order

There are also situations in which it may be in a party's best interest to cancel an order or agreement. This can be more complicated, but it is possible. A party make seek cancellation if:

  • An agreement involved manipulation, coercion or fraud
  • The paying party retires
  • The paying party can no longer work due to disability
  • The recipient remarries
  • The recipient becomes financially independent

Understand that these circumstances will not automatically cancel spousal support obligations, and the courts may determine that payments continue despite these events. As such, it is important to discuss the options with your lawyer.

Order or agreement

It is important to note that there is a difference between a support agreement and a support order. An agreement is the result of two parties negotiating spousal support together; an order comes from the court.

While they are similar in many ways, they are not the same thing. And whether you have an agreement or order can impact enforcement and changes.

Because of these and other complexities of spousal support, it is wise to discuss the legal process and remedies with a lawyer.

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