Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Can a court change an alimony order after it is entered?

There are many changes that occur over the years for Salt Lake City residents. Whether it is changes to a person's career, health or family life, change is a natural part of life. These changes are often a primary reason why divorces occur, as couples may drift apart over time or circumstances may change in the marriage that necessitate a divorce.

However, these changes do not stop at the time of the divorce. Individuals continue to experience changes well after the divorce, which can impact court orders that are entered at the time of the divorce.

For instance, when it comes to spousal support, the court will enter an order at the time of the divorce that entitles a spouse to receive a certain amount and duration of alimony. Last week, this blog discussed the factors the court will consider in determining whether to award alimony and how much alimony should be awarded.

After the divorce, it is important for the spouse receiving spousal support to be able to enforce the court's order. There are ways of doing this if the other spouse fails to pay, such as filing a motion with the court, which can result in finding the spouse in contempt for not paying the alimony as the person was originally ordered.

The parties' circumstances can change after that time. In order to be allowed to ask for a change in the spousal support order, the party who wants the change must show there is a substantial material change in circumstances that was not foreseeable at the time of the divorce. Accordingly, the court typically will not change a support order unless these changes have occurred.

In addition, the court typically will not modify a support order for needs of the recipient that did not exist at the time the divorce was entered. This may not always be the case, however, as the court can consider whether any special reasons are present. The bottom line is that changes are just as much a part of family law as any other part of life, and parties should understand what the court will look at in determining whether to change existing court orders.

Source: Utah Courts, "Alimony," accessed on May 8, 2015

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