Changes to Spousal Support
Beginning July 1, 2018, the law regarding modification of spousal support changed.
Couples often resolve their issues in a divorce by a written agreement. This agreement may be called a separation agreement, property settlement agreement or marital agreement. If a couple resolves the issue of spousal support by agreement, the court is required to follow the agreement when it determines whether spousal support can be modified.
The old rule said that if a couple’s agreement was silent on modification (that is, the agreement didn’t say one way or the other whether the support could be modified), the support would not be able to be modified. Some felt this rule led to unfair results. For example, many couples simply didn’t think about future modification when they signed an agreement, or they assumed that support could be changed later if needed. As a result, the paying spouse could remain obligated to pay support even if he or she lost a job, retired, or became disabled. The spouse receiving support would be prevented from asking for an increase if his or her needs increased.
The New Law
Beginning with agreements signed after July 1, 2018, support is presumed to be modifiable unless the agreement specifically says it can’t be. In other words, when an agreement is silent about modification, support will be subject to modification. This new rule means that if divorcing spouses do not want support to be modifiable, they must make sure that the separation agreement says this explicitly. There are a number of reasons why divorcing spouses may not want support to be modifiable. If support can be modified, either spouse could drag the case back into court year after year and try to get the support amount changed. These repeated court filings would be, of course, extremely time consuming and costly.