Category Archives: Alimony

Is Alimony Modification Possible If I’m Unemployed?

is alimony modification possible if im unemployed

If you make court-ordered alimony (spousal support) payments, you must maintain the payment schedule whether or not you are unemployed. Even if you and your former partner have a verbal agreement, and s/he agrees to take a reduced payment, you must continue making the payment in full until a new court order has been issued.  

The California Family Law Courts state: 

Unless the judge signs a new court order, the existing spousal or partner support amount and order will not be changed. So, to protect yourself, even if you have a verbal agreement with your spouse/domestic partner to change the spousal or partner support amount, put it in writing and have a judge sign it. That way you have a current spousal or partner support order that reflects the current amount. 

A court order translates to a legal obligation, and failure to meet that obligation can have severe consequences (see below). Continue making full spousal support payments until a family law court orders an alimony modification or otherwise. 

As with child support, the court expects you to pay the full amount of your court-ordered payment whether you are working or not. In fact, family law courts typically view unemployment as a temporary situation. They view your education, training, prior work history, the average of your last 12-months of earning, and other pertinent details to establish your general earning potential.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most unemployed adults find a new job in about five to 15 weeks. As a result, the courts consider unemployment to be a short-term situation. If you are unemployed, the courts expect that you will be employed shortly as a result of your diligent job hunting attempts, fueled in part by your legally enforced alimony payment obligations.  

Even so, you should ask for a spousal support modification sooner rather than later in case a modification lowering or waiving your payments will be granted. 

Applying For An Alimony Modification May Help 

If you are actively looking for a job and have not found one, you can apply for an alimony modification of payment. This is also the case if your unemployment is due to something more serious than a typical job layoff. For example, if you are recently disabled or facing a diagnosis of terminal or chronic illness, you may be eligible for a spousal support payment modification. 

We recommend working with a family law attorney who can provide you with legally sound advice while facilitating the payment modification process.  

In California, you begin the process by completing and filing the following forms, available on the website

  • Request for Order (Form FL-300 “”). You can use the Information Sheet for Request for Order (Form FL-300-INFO “”) for information to fill out FL-300
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150 “”). 
  • If you are changing a spousal or partner support order made as part of your divorce or legal separation judgment, or after the judgment, it may be helpful for you to use the Spousal or Partner Support Declaration Attachment (Form FL-157 “”). This form asks you to provide the information the judge will need to make a decision in your case, addressing all the factors the law tells the judge to consider when making decisions about long-term spousal or partner support. This form is optional, but even if you do not use it, you may want to take a look at it to make sure you understand what you will have to prove to the judge. 
  • Also, use a Declaration (Form MC-030 “”) or an Attached Declaration (Form MC-031 “”) if you need more space to explain why you believe a change in spousal or partner support is needed. 

Again, we recommend having those forms reviewed by a family law facilitator. Even a one-time payment for their time will ensure the forms are filled out completely and correctly. Filing incomplete forms, or forms containing errors can result in the forms being kicked back to you – delaying the court date and potentially modified payment reductions. Finally, don’t forget to make two copies of the forms, one for you and one for your former spouse/partner.  

Once the forms are completed and filed, you’ll move forward with additional steps for alimony modification, including: 

  1. Getting an official court date 
  2. Serving your former spouse or partner with the relevant forms 
  3. Filing proof that your former spouse/partner has been served 
  4. Attending your court hearing 

Penalties For Failing To Pay Court-Ordered Spousal Support 

The courts have a very clear format for penalizing individuals who are delinquent in paying alimony or child support payments, including reduced or missed payments. This includes: 

  • Wage garnishment 
  • Garnishment of tax returns 
  • Repayment plans with 10% interest tacked on (paid to your former spouse/partner) 
  • Suspension of your driver’s license 
  • Jail time 

Again, a one-time consultation with a family law attorney can make all the difference in ensuring spousal support payments are fairly based on your current employment status and earnings, and to facilitate the modification process. 

Contact the Law Offices of Gerald Falzone to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation or to schedule an appointment to discuss how your current unemployment situation could lower or waive alimony obligations.

Alimony 101


Divorce is never easy, even when it’s a mutual agreement between husband and wife. In addition to emotional distress, financial concerns have a big impact on both parties. One of the biggest issues that California couples face is alimony and how to work out an agreement that benefits both parties. If you’re going through a divorce, this information will help you understand alimony laws in California.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony, also called spousal support in California Family Courts, is a legal obligation placed on a person to provide financial support to his or her spouse before or after marital separation or divorce. As a general rule, alimony is usually awarded to the “dependent spouse”, either husband or wife, who was financially dependent on the other spouse for maintenance and support during the marriage. Alimony payments may be awarded as a lump sum or on a continuing basis and vary greatly based on complex factors of each divorce case.

California divorce laws allow the court to order temporary alimony before there’s a final judgment, and retroactive alimony that can go back as far as the filing of the petition for divorce or legal separation.

How Is Alimony Determined In California?

When calculating income to determine alimony, the court usually uses the last twelve months of income as a benchmark. This typically represents a fair calculation for both parties, but there are no hard and fast rules. The court can go back longer or shorter than twelve months depending on divorce circumstances.

Temporary Alimony

The fundamental purpose of temporary alimony is to maintain the status quo while going through the divorce process. Temporary alimony guidelines use the same computer program that’s used for California child support. This program determines the net disposable income of the highest earning spouse and calculates alimony on a temporary basis, however the court does have final discretion. A black-and-white formula isn’t used in every case, but it’s unlikely that the court will diverge from the computer formula unless there’s persuasive evidence. California Family Code 4320 does not allow this computer program to be used to calculate permanent alimony.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony is calculated differently than temporary alimony. The biggest difference is that the court can not use the computer program to determine the amount. Final alimony orders at the time of judgment must be based on Family Code 4320 to determine the standard of living that was established during the marriage or domestic partnership.

These factors include:

  • The age and health of both people
  • Current debts and property
  • The length of the marriage
  • What each person needs based on the standard of living during the marriage
  • What each person can pay (including earnings and earning capacity) to keep the same standard of living they had during the marriage
  • Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the children (dependent spouse)
  • Whether one spouse helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license during the marriage
  • Whether there was any domestic violence reported during the marriage
  • Whether one spouse’s career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home
  • The tax impact of spousal support

Once a decision has been reached by the court, the alimony or spousal support order then becomes part of your final divorce or legal separation judgment. Most alimony orders will continue for one half the duration of the marriage in short-term marriages (less than 10 years), or until the death of either spouse or remarriage of the spouse receiving support.