Spousal Support Modification

Spousal Support Modification

In California, spousal support or “alimony” orders can in some cases be modified by the court, based on a change in circumstances.


Although the court always retains jurisdiction over California child support orders, this is not always the case with regard to spousal support.

The jurisdiction of the court can be terminated by order of the court, especially with regard to marriages that lasted less than 10 years. The court’s jurisdiction will typically end when the duration of rehabilitative support ends, which is typically half the duration of the marriage, although if both parties agree, the jurisdiction can be reserved to the court beyond this period.

In support cases related to longer marriages, the court’s jurisdiction will typically not end until the supported spouse died or remarries, except based on the written agreement of both parties.

The parties can also agree to make spousal support non-modifiable and non-terminable.

California courts cannot modify a spousal support order which is under the jurisdiction of another state, nor can courts in another state modify alimony orders under California jurisdiction.


The party seeking modification of a spousal support order in California must demonstrate a substantial change of circumstances from the time the existing order was completed.

A party seeking an increase in spousal support must demonstrate to the court either that the initial order was insufficient to meet the supported party’s needs and as such that it was essentially in error, or that the cost of meeting the supported party’s reasonable needs have substantially increased. The supported party must also demonstrate to the court that it is within the financial ability of the supporting party to meet the receiving party’s increased needs.

A party seeking a decrease in spousal support must likewise demonstrate to the court that a substantial change to the circumstances of the initial order has occurred, such as an increase in healthcare costs, or changes in the income of either party, which can include retirement if the supporting party is aged 65 or older, or an inheritance by the supported party.

The court may not find that a change of income on the part of the supporting party warrants a lowering of the spousal support payments if the court determines that this change was voluntary and does not reflect the earning potential of the supporting spouse.

The court will consider the same factors in weighing a modification that were used to determine the initial alimony order.

Spousal support modifications cannot be retroactive.

Contact Lurkis, Joyce & Del Bove today

The dedicated, experienced alimony attorneys at the family law firm of Lurkis, Joyce & Del Bove, LLP represent clients in spousal support proceedings and all matters related to alimony & spousal support throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

To set up an initial consultation, call our firm at (415) 399-1460 or (650) 779-5527, or submit our case evaluation form.