AFTER HOURS CALL: 1.855.2 HARR LAW Get Answers to Your Questions Today!

Will My Alimony Payments Change If My Income Goes Up?

  • May 25, 2020
  • The Harr Law Firm

Stack of money clipped with paper labeled alimonyAlimony or spousal support is a set amount of money paid from one former spouse to another. The amount is determined when the divorce is finalized, and is usually awarded to support the individual who was dependent on their spouse’s income during the marriage. But, like many aspects of a divorce agreement, alimony can be adjusted under certain circumstances. Many people who are paying spousal support wonder if a sudden increase in income is one of those circumstances, and if they’ll end up paying more alimony when their income goes up. Here’s what you need to know.

Will You Need to Pay More?

The most common answer to the question asked above is no; an increase in your income does not mean that you will have to pay more in alimony. The amount set for spousal support is a flat amount that the court determined would enable your ex to continue living comfortably without living in your household any longer. It is not based on a percentage of your current income, and so it should not go up simply because you’re making more money.

There have been cases like this in the past, when an ex-husband experienced a significant increase in his income. When his ex-wife found out, she filed for an increase in alimony. However, her request was denied.

There are many reasons that alimony does not increase simply because the payer’s income has increased. For starters, an increase in income for the payer does not negatively impact the beneficiary’s lifestyle in any way, and is not at their expense. Additionally, as we’ve already mentioned the alimony amount selected was determined to be sufficient for the beneficiary to sustain themselves; a change to the payer’s financial situation doesn’t negate this fact.

So, if you’re paying alimony and your income goes up, you most likely don’t have to worry about paying more in alimony as a result. Of course, every situation is different. So, if your ex has request that you pay more in alimony simply because you’ve had an increase of income, we recommend that you reach out to one of our attorneys right away to determine the legitimacy of their claim.

The Escalator Clause

It’s also important to be aware of whether or not your support agreement includes an escalator clause. This clause allows for your ex to receive a certain percentage of any increase in your earnings, so it would be quite a different situation than a set alimony amount. However, these increases are usually applied automatically, and is not something that your ex would have to request when your income increases.

An Income Increase for the Beneficiary

Now, what if the individual receiving alimony is the one who has seen an increase in their income? Would the payer then be able to request a decrease in their monthly alimony payments? There’s no set answer to this question, but in most cases, the answer would be yes. If your ex’s income has increased significantly and they are now able to support themselves, you may be able to ask the court to reduce or even eliminate the amount you pay in spousal support.

Circumstances That Warrant an Alimony Change

There are certain other circumstances that allow for alimony to be increased or decreased. Here are a few of the more common ones:

  1. Cost of Living Adjustment – Most divorce decrees will have a cost of living adjustment (COLA) clause. This means that alimony payments can be automatically adjusted to account for changes in the average cost of living. Over time, a set amount in alimony may no longer be sufficient to live on, and the COLA clause allows for those payments to be adjusted without modifying the support agreement.
  2. Cohabitation – If the beneficiary of an alimony agreement begins living with a new partner, support can be reduced or even terminated. If the beneficiary feels the reduction or termination is unfair, they will have to prove that they still need the support.
  3. Disability – If the support recipient becomes disabled, they can request an increase in support payments in order to support themselves through their disability. Conversely, if the payer becomes disabled, they may be able to request a decrease in support payments.
  4. New Obligations – If the payer remarries and has a child, they may request a reduction in support payments. With a new family to support, the court may determine that continuing to support the ex-spouse would place unfair financial hardships on the payer and their family.

If you have questions about your current alimony agreement or are hoping to modify it, please reach out to our family law experts at the Harr Law Firm and schedule your consultation today.