I want to stop paying spousal support, what are my options?

Are you tired of paying spousal support?  If you are obligated to pay spousal support, you may be frustrated.  However, before you stop paying altogether you should read the following article to understand the consequences for failure to pay spousal support. Here are some important facts that experienced San Francisco Bay Area family law attorneys want you to know before you decide to willfully stop spousal support payments to your ex.  

(1) You May Be Able to Ask the Court For A Reduction of Payments

Some spousal support orders are modifiable by the Court. To determine if your spousal support order is modifiable you should look at your marital settlement agreement and read the language to see if your agreement has modifiable or non-modifiable support terms. 

In California, the Court can modify or terminate a spousal support order at any time, unless there is language in your marital settlement agreement that specifically precludes modification.

Examples of non- modifiable language that could preclude a change to the order include any of the following terms:  this agreement for spousal support cannot be modified; this agreement cannot be modified until ----- ; this is a non-modifiable agreement; or this agreement cannot be modified simply on the basis that the income or expenses of the parties has changed to a substantial degree.

A spousal support order is modifiable if there is a provision in your spousal support order that uses the words .. or upon court order. Those words usually mean that the support ordered can be changed if the moving party shows a material change in circumstances since the order was made. This change in circumstances cannot be a demotion or a child’s education decisions.  Instead the change must be such that the parties are in very different positions than they were at the time the order was made.

If you have experienced a change in circumstances – like caring for the health of a relative or a new spouse, you may be able to change your spousal support order. However, if the language of the order is non-modifiable – you need to understand the consequences of failing to pay.  

(2) Failure to Pay Could Result in Owing Even More To Your Ex Spouse.

Past due support orders accrue interest at 10% from the date of each installment becomes due. Family Code Section 155. This means that every payment you miss accrues interest.  Furthermore, support orders may be enforced like any other money judgment. This means that your ex may obtain a Writ of Execution and enforce a money judgment against your bank accounts, property, or even pension.  
This is even more important because courts do not have discretion to relieve the obligor of the interest and unpaid support cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. But let’s say you don’t care about the money, maybe you care about avoiding jail.

(3) Willful Failure to Pay Spousal Support Could Send You to Jail

If you have failed to pay support or paid only part of what you owe and you have the ability to pay, your ex spouse can file a motion for Contempt of Court. If you are found in Contempt because you have the ability to pay but have evaded payment, then you can expect to be fined and/or incarcerated unless you have a defense.

Contact a family law attorney now if you are facing a Contempt charge you can contact me at amanda@gordonfamilylaw.com.

Looking for more posts on spousal support:

My ex stopped paying child support - what can I do?
My child’s mother does not follow our visitation schedule, how can I get her to comply?
What to do if your ex does not pay support or follow visitation: how to file for Contempt.