When a couple in California divorces, oftentimes one spouse will be ordered to pay spousal support to the other. However, as time marches on, each spouse's life circumstances will change. When it comes to the paying spouse, it is possible that they may lose their job. Or, they may incur a significant expense, such as a hospital bill or car repair. Any of these situations could make it difficult, if not impossible, for the paying spouse to meet their spousal support obligations.
When this happens, the paying spouse may seek to reduce the amount of spousal support they pay. To do so, they will have to ask the court for a spousal support modification. However, in order for such a modification to be successful, there must be a significant change in circumstances.
That being said, there is something very important paying spouses need to keep in mind when pursuing a spousal support modification. While the modification is being sought and until a modification is approved, the paying spouse still owes the entire amount of their current spousal support obligations. To put it simply, spousal support modifications are not retroactive to the date the change in circumstances took place. They only take effect moving forward. In addition, if a person cannot pay what they owe in spousal support from the time the change in circumstances occurred to the time the modification was approved, interest in the amount of 10 percent annually will accrue on the unpaid balance.
For these reasons, it is important to seek a spousal support modification as soon as you think you need it. In addition, it is important to make every effort possible to continue paying spousal support until your modification is approved. By taking these steps, it is possible to minimize the negative consequences that come with a failure to abide by a spousal support order.
Source: courts.ca.gov, "Spousal/Partner Support," Accessed Sept. 4, 2017