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Is Spousal Support Automatically Modified if One Person’s Income Changes?

When a couple divorces, they may agree on spousal support payments, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance. In other cases, a Minnesota family court judge will order these payments based on a list of factors set out in state law.

Among the factors that are considered when ordering spousal maintenance are the financial resources of each spouse, each party’s contributions to the marriage, the length the couple was married, and each spouse’s earning capacity. A judge can order either short-term maintenance to allow one spouse to get back on their feet, or long-term maintenance to help someone maintain their standard of living when they are unable to support themselves.

When someone’s income or capacity to earn an income changes, the support award does not change on its own. The two parties can agree to change the payment amounts if they can come to an agreement. If no agreement can be reached, it is essential for the party seeking a change to ask a court for a modification of the support order. Common reasons for a change to a support order include:

  • A significant increase in income for either spouse
  • A significant decrease in income for either spouse
  • An inheritance by the spouse receiving support
  • Changes in the cost of living
  • Major health problems

In weighing whether to change the support award, a court will determine whether the current award is unreasonable and unfair in light of changed circumstances.

In some cases, parties can create an agreement that takes away a court’s power to make later changes. Known as Karon waivers, they must be approved by a judge before they can take effect.

To learn more about alimony and modifying support orders, speak with a compassionate Minnesota spousal maintenance attorney at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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