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When and how can I have my alimony order changed in Delaware?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2022 | divorce |

In Delaware family law cases, alimony is a common topic for dispute. It can be difficult for both parties to reconcile the various issues that accompany a divorce. The changed lifestyle is one that can be especially complicated.

The party who earned the higher income and is expected to pay alimony (the obligor), may resent the obligation when they think the supported former spouse (the obligee) can do more to support themselves.

From the perspective of the obligee, the amount they are receiving could seem low compared to the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage. Even after an amount is determined and the order is put in effect, it does not necessarily remain the same forever. Knowing how to establish and modify the alimony amount based on the law is important.

Alimony determinations and requesting a modification

The court will look at the factors from the marriage and decide if alimony is appropriate. Then it will assess how much it should be. If one spouse was the primary breadwinner with the other working a lower paying job or not working at all, then it must be analyzed what type of work the receiving spouse can do, how long it would take to gain marketable skills for self-support and the prospect of getting a job that will affect the alimony. Meeting their reasonable needs is key. If they are also taking care of a minor child, this too will be essential with the order amount.

The court will look at: the financial resources; their property holdings; how long it would take for the obligee to gain the training or education to self-support; the standard of living they had while they were married; how long they were married; if there were financial contributions from the prospective receiving spouse to the other spouse for their education, training and career advancement; if the obligor can meet their own needs while paying alimony; taxes; if education, training and opportunities were put off during the marriage; and other factors the court finds relevant. Alimony duration will not go beyond half the amount of time the couple was married unless the marriage lasted more than 20 years.

An example

An example would be a couple that was married for 25 years with one spouse as the wage earner and the other staying at home to take care of the household and perform parental duties. It can be difficult for the stay-at-home party to find work that will allow them to keep up the lifestyle they had during the marriage. For this type of longer marriage where there are limited prospects to get a reasonably paying job, the court is likely to award alimony for an extended period.

If the obligee can get a decent job where they need less alimony or do not need alimony at all, then it is reasonable to expect a modification or an end date for the alimony. The obligor can say that the obligee is living with someone else and getting support through their new relationship. There are also cases where a person is fortunate enough to come into money, lessening or eliminating the need for alimony. The key for a modification is the change in circumstances. The court will need proof that the situation has changed and either side can ask for the order to be updated.