Can spousal support change once the other partner makes more money?

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Can spousal support change once the other partner makes more money?

I am looking to file for dissolution or divorce. I am not currently working but will finish school in one year. If the paperwork is complete and I am issued spousal support, will I still receive it after getting a job in the future?

Asked on August 10, 2012 under Family Law, Ohio


Brad Micklin / The Micklin Law Group

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The Family Courts are usually vested with the power to modify most support obligations.  They can be modified following a permanent and substantial change of circumstance since the entry of the support obligation.  However, there is no exact definition of what is a permanent and substantial change of circumstance. The lead case in New Jersey for reference is Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, which attempts to give some guidelines to the standard but all modification issues are fact and case specific.

Common reasons for change of circumstances are substantial increases or decreases in income, newly obtained employment, unemployment, marriages, births, deaths and other major life changes.

Specifically, courts have found a change of circumstances in the following instances in an increase in the cost of living; increase or decrease in the supporting spouse's income; illness, disability or infirmity arising after the original judgment; the dependent spouse's loss of a house or apartment; the dependent spouse's cohabitation with another; subsequent employment by the dependent spouse; and changes in federal income tax law.

Additionally for child support modifications, increases in the child/children’s needs, whether occasioned by age, increases in the cost of living or more unusual events, have been held to justify an increase in support.  Conversely, their emancipation or employment can be reasons to reduce or eliminate child support.

Additionally, many support obligations are pursuant to written settlement agreements, commonly called property settlement agreements or other agreements like a consent order. These obligations, as well as the requirements necessary to modify them, are often defined him as in these writings. The public policy of New Jersey is not to rewrite a party’s agreement but only to enforce it. This means that, in many cases, the circumstances by which a court can modify a support obligation are solely limited to the terms agreed to between the parties in their own agreement.

To that end, many agreements have what commonly referred to as an “anti-lepis”clause which derives its name from the lead case of Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, mentioned above. This is a case that best defines the circumstances for modifying as well as many circumstances to refuse a modification. Many, if not all, attorneys include a provision in settlement agreements providing a prohibition against future modifications for alimony.  An anti-Lepis clause is unenforceable for child-support purposes as contrary to public policy.

 You should speak with an experienced attorney who is familiar with these areas of law.


Good luck.

Brad M. Micklin, Esq.

187 Washington Ave., Suite 2F

Nutley, NJ 07110


[email protected] 

This information is based on New Jersey law and upon the limited facts you presented. My advice may be different if I find that the facts presented are different.  Additionally, this answer does not contain any confidential information nor does it create any attorney/client relationship.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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