Modifying spousal support orders

After courts issue spousal support orders, circumstances may change for one or both spouses. For instance, the paying spouse may lose his or her job, or the partner receiving support may obtain gainful employment and no longer need the assistance.

When situations arise that affect people’s ability to fulfill their support obligations, they may ask the court to modify their existing orders.

Acting early

According to the Judicial Council of California, people who experience significant changes in circumstances should immediately seek to modify their support orders. The court cannot retroactively adjust spousal support orders. Therefore, approved modifications may only take effect as of the date when people file their requests with the court, not the date when their income first went down.

Requesting a support order change

When asking the court to modify existing spousal support orders, people must complete and submit the appropriate forms. Among providing information regarding their income and expenses, they may also give information pertinent to help the judge make his or her decision on these forms. Those seeking spousal support modifications must provide notice of their request and the pending court date, as well as submit proof of service with the court.

Preparing for the court hearing

If unable to reach an agreement themselves or with the assistance of an intermediary, people may go before a judge on their specified court dates. According to the Judicial Council of California, to prepare for a court date, some of the steps people may take include the following:

  • Gather, make copies of and organize all forms and supporting documentation
  • Fully read all associated court papers to understand the request and response
  • Make a list of the reasons for the request
  • Dress respectfully and neatly
  • Arrive at court on time
  • Refrain from speaking out of turn or interrupting the judge

Before leaving the courtroom, people should ensure they understand the judges’ orders and their resulting obligations.