This is the next post in my series discussing spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. My previous article discussed the potential consequences a settlement agreement may have on spousal support awards. It also stressed the importance of retaining an experienced family law attorney to review, explain and negotiate a settlement agreement on your behalf. In this post, I will discuss the possibility of seeking a modification of a previously issued an alimony award. If you need assistance with a spousal support matter, contact my office to speak with a lawyer.
Like many states, Nevada law provides that unless the parties to an alimony award have expressly agreed that it cannot be revised, spousal support orders are typically considered “modifiable.” A judge may be willing to adjust a previously issued award if the circumstances of one or both of the parties have significantly changed from the time of the previous order. For example, significant increases or decreases in a party’s income level may result in an adjustment (upward or downward as appropriate) of an alimony obligation. Other circumstances, such as a serious injury or illness preventing a party from working or an unexpected promotion of the party receiving temporary support may justify a modification.
When such circumstances exist, a party may request a modification of an award by filing a Motion with the court. Similar to the divorce litigation process, each side will be required to provide updated financial disclosures. The court will hold a hearing at which the parties will be required to demonstrate, by objective evidence, how the circumstances have now changed thereby justifying the modification. Depending on the facts of the case, the court may permit the parties to conduct discovery to gather additional evidence. The types of arguments and evidence used at a modification hearing will closely resemble those heard at the initial hearing. For example, one party may challenge a request for an increase in spousal support on the basis that the other person is purposefully underemployed, using evidence such as personnel reports, depositions of employers, etc. It is important to understand that the parties’ relative financial positions must have significantly changed to warrant a modification in spousal support. Temporary lay-offs or seasonal reductions in force, when such occurrences are common in the industry, will not likely warrant a change in one’s obligations. For obvious reasons, each case will depend on the specific facts of the situation.
Even if the parties have agreed to a non-modifiable spousal support award, a court may set aside the decision if one party committed fraud in the course of negotiating the agreement. Where a party can demonstrate that they were induced to agree to the alimony settlement by the fraudulent statements or actions of the other party, the previously agreed to award will be overturned. As a result, a new order will be issued. For instance, a party learns after entering a non-modifiable settlement agreement that her spouse failed to disclose significant income from stock holdings during the litigation. She may file a motion with the court seeking to set aside the previous order on the basis of fraud and seek a modification of the award with the newly discovered assets included in the calculation.
A Las Vegas divorce lawyer can help you understand whether you may be able to seek a modification of your spousal support award. My office is committed to family law practice and is ready to assist you. Contact us today to speak with an attorney.