Usually, you have to go to court and get its approval if you want to modify (increase, decrease, or stop) alimony. For example, if you are the payer and you experience a loss of income, you have to prove your change in circumstances in court before it can approve your modification request. However, there are cases where you don't have to go to court to start paying or receiving modified alimony. Here are three examples of such circumstances:
You and your former partner can agree to increase or decrease spousal support at any time. In this case, you just sit down with your former partner and negotiate a new alimony payment schedule. As you can imagine, this may not be possible if your separation was extremely acrimonious, and you are no longer in talking terms with your partner. Also, if your former partner reneges on the payments, it will be difficult for the court to enforce it unless it approved your written agreement.
An escalator clause is an agreement that automatically increases alimony payments if the payer's earnings increase. You have to specify the amount of increase that triggers the escalator clause, and the corresponding increase in alimony. For example, an escalator clause may be worded to the effect that the alimony payments automatically increase by 20% if the payer's earnings increase by at least $500 per month. If your alimony agreement has an escalator clause, then the paying person should make the increased payments without the recipient having to go to court over it.
The cost of living tends to rise as years go by. For example, ten years from now, a thousand dollars may not be able to buy the same things that the same amount of money may purchase today. That means the receiving person may not be able to maintain his or her standard of living if alimony isn't increased. Taking this into consideration, some courts include cost of living adjustment (COLA) clauses, which automatically increase alimony in line with the prevailing cost of living. COLA is usually based on a suitable economic index, such as the Consumer Price Index, which tracks the price level of market-based consumer goods and services. That way, nobody has to go to court to demand alimony increased citing increased cost of living.
Whether or not you agree with the automatic increase of your alimony payments, you are obliged to make them unless the court orders otherwise. The only thing you can do, if you feel the increase isn't justified, is to challenge the issue in court. Contact professionals like Reneer & Associates to learn more.