One of the most tricky issues after a divorce is handling finances. Courts will often require one party to pay child support if children are involved. In some cases, they may also mandate one party to pay alimony.
For example, a spousal maintenance agreement might be appropriate if the husband earns a substantial income while the wife is not working because she stays home to take care of the kids.
However, what happens if, after the divorce, one party’s income changes after the child support or alimony agreement is already in place?
Is Spousal Maintenance Permanent?
No. It’s possible to file a petition to change the amount of child support or alimony the higher-earning partner must pay.
Modification in Spousal maintenance agreement is possible when circumstances have changed significantly. While you can request an amendment in cases when your living expenses have gone up or the child’s medical bills have increased, most often, people ask for modifications due to changes in income.
If You Are Paying Alimony
If you are paying alimony, you may request to modify the amount of child support or spousal maintenance you pay if your income has decreased or your spouse’s income has increased.
A sudden job loss or a change in income through no fault of your own are good reasons for the courts to reconsider your obligation. An example might be if you work in sales and your industry has suffered severe losses due to the economy. Alternatively, your company may have gone bankrupt and fired all its employees.
If your spouse’s income has increased significantly, you may feel that it is no longer just to continue paying high amounts of alimony regularly, and the court may agree.
There are other reasons you may request a modification to the spousal maintenance and child support decrees. The court may also approve a modification if your income hasn’t decreased, but your living expenses have. For example, if you discover you have a chronic medical condition that requires frequent expensive treatments, you may no longer be able to afford the same amount of alimony.
On the flip side, if your income has increased or your spouse’s income has decreased, they may file a modification request to increase the alimony payments.
If Your Ex Is Paying Alimony
If your ex is paying alimony and their income has increased, your family law attorney may request to raise the spousal maintenance amount.
Similarly, suppose your income has decreased, and you can no longer afford your living expenses or provide for your children. In that case, you can request a modification in the child support or spousal maintenance order and ask that your ex pay more.
What Constitutes a Change of Income?
Receiving a slight pay increase or a bonus won’t usually be enough for the courts to reconsider a change in alimony.
Typically, the change in income will have to be substantial enough that the current alimony or child support agreement would be “unfair” according to Minnesota’s guidelines if the court created a new agreement based on current incomes.
Usually, the difference will have to be at least 20% or $75. Therefore, your ex’s income doesn’t have to double or increase by a huge amount. As long as a new court order (based on the new income) would be 20% or $75 higher or lower than the current order, there’s a good chance the court will approve the modification.
That’s not set in stone, though. In individual circumstances, the court may step in and decide on an unfair agreement based on specific factors unique to the case.
What If the Agreement Is Non-Modifiable?
When creating the initial support agreement, both parties may agree to make it non-modifiable. If they have agreed to that, neither spouse will be able to change it in the future. That is true even if there is a significant change in income, such as if the spouse paying alimony doubled their income after getting a promotion.
Note that a court can’t issue an order making an alimony agreement non-modifiable without the support of both spouses.
You may know this as the Karon Waiver, so-called after the Karon vs. Karon case , in which the Minnesota Supreme Court decided a modification was no longer possible after the two parties had already agreed to waive the right to submit modification requests.
A Karon Waiver has significant implications because neither party can modify the alimony agreement, even if one party’s income increases significantly. With a Karon Waiver, you will know exactly how much alimony you are getting and for how long. The agreement will remain unchanged if one party goes bankrupt or wins the lottery.
Contact an Experienced Minnesota Divorce Attorney
If you think your ex should owe you more money for spousal maintenance or support, or if you can no longer afford the child support or alimony payments you’re currently sending your spouse, contact the experienced divorce attorneys at CJB Law today.
For the court to approve your modification request, you’ll need to provide evidence of the changes in income or living expenses, and a lawyer will help you do that.