You put a lot of work into setting up an alimony order as part of your divorce settlement. You calculated how much the paying party can afford, how much the receiving party needs, and you negotiated how long the receiving party will need the financial support before they can be financially independent.
And perhaps both you and your ex have been basically satisfied with the results since the order was finalized. The paying party has been making payments on time and the receiving party has had the income they need while they are working toward independence.
But now you find that things have changed. Can you request a modification to your alimony order?
Before we answer that question, we will discuss some basic alimony milestones.
First, one must request alimony before a divorce is finalized. After the divorce decree, a spouse generally cannot request an alimony order from the court. Theoretically, one could request alimony from an ex-spouse after the divorce is finalized, but there’s no reason to expect that they’d agree to it.
Second, most alimony orders in Maryland are considered rehabilitative. That means they are temporary orders designed to help the receiving spouse become financially independent. With that goal in mind, they typically have a set end date, or their end is tied to a milestone such as graduation from a professional school or the securing of a job.
Likewise, alimony orders end when either party dies or the receiving party remarries.
Petitioning for changes
Outside of those built-in endings, either party can request a modification of an existing alimony order if circumstances have changed. For instance, a paying party may want to request a reduction in payments after they have lost a job.
If the parties agree to the change, then they can write up the modification agreement. If one spouse doesn’t agree to the change, the other may need to petition directly to the court.
To determine whether a modification is necessary, Maryland courts review the original order and the evidence of changed circumstances.
The whole process can be challenging for all involved, but in many cases it is a necessary step.