This is the next post in a series of articles discussing alimony awards in Little Rock, Arkansas. Our previous article focused on the importance of discovery in spousal support disputes. Using the tools available to them in the discovery process, attorneys are able to gather objective evidence necessary to establish key facts and arguments applicable to alimony cases. It is important to work with an attorney who understands the process and the strict rules of procedure and evidence that apply. Doing so can help ensure that your legal interests are protected. In this post, we will discuss when and how a party may seek to modify an existing spousal support arrangement. If you need assistance, contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
In Arkansas, alimony orders are typically considered “modifiable” unless the parties have expressly agreed that a spousal support award cannot be changed in the future. Generally speaking, if one or both of the parties experience a significant change in circumstances, the Court may be willing to adjust a previously ordered alimony award. For instance, if a person unexpectedly loses their job, gets a raise, is diagnosed with a serious illness, suffers a disability, remarries or moves in with a significant other, it may be possible to request a modification. On the other hand, if their settlement agreement or final order states that the spousal support agreement between the parties is non-modifiable or limits the circumstances under which a change may be requested, a Court will generally enforce that agreement. This means that regardless of the future change in circumstances, the parties may be stuck with the current arrangement.
Assuming an award is modifiable, the process to request a change begins by filing a Motion with the Court. The non-requesting party may challenge the requested change. Both parties must provide updated financial disclosures to the Court. An initial hearing will be held at which the Judge will review the information presented and determine whether to issue an adjusted alimony order. Depending on the specific facts of the case, a new order may be issued immediately granting the change or the modification may be denied. If additional testimony is needed, the Court may schedule a further evidentiary hearing or trial. Similar to the initial divorce proceeding, the parties will be required to provide objective evidence in support of their respective arguments. Issues such as underemployment, voluntary retirement, proof of income, or proof that a spouse is living with another person, will all require objective proof. As discussed throughout this series, information such as pay stubs, tax returns, employment records, etc. will play an important role.
It is important to understand that the parties’ relative financial positions must have significantly changed to warrant a modification in spousal support. Temporary or short-term changes due to seasonal employment, a brief illness, or a lay-off may not be significant enough to justify an alimony modification. To understand your options, contact an attorney to discuss your case. Our Little Rock attorneys have experience in alimony modification cases and are ready to assist you. We also handle matters in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff, and throughout the rest of Arkansas.