Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

When can a court revisit a spousal support order?

Changes are a regular part of life for all Salt Lake City residents. These changes can be positive or negative, such as a change in careers, a marriage or divorce or other changes in one's family. Because these changes are ongoing over a person's life, what may seem like a settled issue can arise again in the future.

A good example of this is spousal support during a divorce. Spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, may be ordered by the court where there is a disparity between the spouses in financial ability or earning power.

There can be many intense arguments made by both spouses during the divorce on the issue of spousal support. Financial issues tend to create conflict in the divorce process, and this is particularly true when one spouse objects to paying alimony to the other spouse. In other cases, the basic award of alimony may be undisputed, but the amount of those payments can be a contentious issue.

While the court's award may put to rest many of these arguments, in many cases, the dispute may arise again in the future. For instance, the party who has been ordered by the court to make payment to the other spouse may refuse to do so, in which case it may be necessary to go back to court in order to enforce the earlier order. The court can issue a judgment, which may include all of the amounts that were previously ordered that have not yet been pad. The court could also go further by holding the spouse in contempt, which can create additional penalties like fines or even jail time.

In other cases, both parties may comply fully with the terms of the court's initial order. However, circumstances can change over time, which may lead one party or the other to request a change in the alimony award. For instance, the spouse making payments may have lost his or her job, and thus he or she may want an order reducing payments. On the other hand, the spouse receiving payments may experience a change in circumstances that requires a higher amount of payments to be made. In either scenario, the court can address whether it will revisit the earlier order and whether it will change the terms of that order due to the post-divorce modifications.

Source: Utah Courts, "Alimony," accessed on June 26, 2015

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