How the court decides on changes in alimony

Learn about the criteria judges use to help them decide on changes in alimony.

Table of Contents

What a judge considers

If you’ve asked for a change in alimony based on a change in circumstances, the court will review whether there has been: 

  • A “material” change in a person’s ability to pay the alimony, or 
  • A "material" change in a person’s need for alimony, or 
  • Both 

This might include things like making more or less money at work, a severe illness that affects the ability to earn money, or other changes that are important enough that alimony should be changed.

If you’re paying alimony, and hoping to pay less in the future, you’ll still owe the full amount of alimony in your current court order until the court changes the order — even if your situation has changed. For example, if you lose your job today but your alimony order isn't changed until 3 months from now, you’ll still owe your alimony from today until 3 months from now, even though you were unemployed.

The law also lists changes that might end alimony:

  • If the person receiving alimony remarries or lives with someone as a couple for at least 3 months
  • If either person dies
  • If the alimony lasts for longer than the law requires. See learn about the types of alimony for more information.
  • If the person paying alimony reaches full retirement age


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