How Job Loss Affects Spousal Support

Date Posted:April 22, 2015 | Categories:

Job Loss Affects Spousal Support

Job loss and other economic factors can have a huge impact on your life.  Many workers have faced lay-offs, downsizing, and job loss due to factors outside their control.  This is especially concerning when you are required to pay a specific amount to your ex-spouse in the form of spousal support.  Rather than face the possibility of missing payments and fighting a new court battle, take a look at how hiring an attorney can help keep everyone happy. 

Spousal support is generally negotiated as part of the divorce decree that you sign with your former spouse.  Formerly known as alimony, spousal support payments are important to discuss before you sign a divorce decree.  When you agree that divorce is the best option, then assets are split and spousal support payments are paid to the lower earning spouse.  In Ohio, judges use many factors to determine the initial amount of spousal support to award to the lower earning spouse of a divorce.   One such factor is the earning capacity of both spouses.  This is subject to change as the job market and economy fluctuate, but it gives the judge an idea of the appropriate amount of financial support that newly divorced spouse should receive. 

Payment amounts are calculated using multiple factors including income and the ability for the non-working spouse to return to the job market.  With the slow recovery from the most recent economic downturn, many are finding it harder to keep full time work and often seek part time or temporary employment.  If the earner paying spousal support should receive unexpected news and become unemployed, then he or she should petition the court to modify spousal support.  This is especially true when the part time or temporary employment brings lower wages and is an involuntary job move. 

Modifying spousal support isn’t as easy as writing a letter explaining your change of circumstances.  Hire an attorney to petition the court for a modification, and you will be glad that you did.  A family law attorney will review if your reason for requesting a modification meets with the court requirements, and present the matter to the court for review.  The court will only modify the support order if there has been a change of circumstances for either spouse such as an involuntary change in wages, and a provision is present in the divorce decree that the order may be modified.  A divorce and family law attorney will be able to review your newly acquired job status and advise on the best course of action.  Depending on the length of unemployment and any separation packages, you may be able to modify the order.

As long as your spousal support order states that you can modify the order and the change of circumstance is sufficient, courts will generally grant a modification.  Working with an attorney is key, as they are aware of the needs of the court and understand what is required when seeking modification of spousal support.  Find an attorney with experience in family law matters to help you petition for a modification. 

Additionally, if you are the higher earning spouse during the marriage but you are not making as much as you used to and your ex-spouse is now making more than you, it is time to revisit that spousal support order.  This is especially important in these economic times, where employment may be temporary or part time rather than the 40-hour workweek our grandparents knew.  Talk with a family law attorney about reviewing the spousal support payments and what type of modification is available for someone in your situation.  Remember every situation is unique, so work with a family law attorney to learn what the best options are for you. 


Many courts view spousal support as a temporary measure to help the lower earning spouse get back on his or her feet after a divorce.  Working with an attorney will help you evaluate if you are paying too much in support or if your support payments should be ending based on your new situation.  If your ex-spouse is working and making more than you are once you have had an involuntary wage decrease, it is time to revisit that spousal support agreement.  Work with a family law attorney to review your support order and work out a plan based on your new circumstances. 


Finally, have a number in mind.  Make sure when you speak with an attorney you know how much you can afford to pay for spousal support if you take a temporary position after a job loss.  Often when you seek a modification the court will ask if it is complete wage loss or if it is a decrease and the amount of time it may take to get back to that earning amount.  If you face only one month of unemployment and were ordered to pay spousal support less than a year ago, chances are the court will not grant the modification.  Work with an attorney to review your specific situation and see what your options may be.  Every situation is unique, which is why speaking with a family law attorney is so important.