If you're retiring after a divorce, reconsider support amounts

No matter your age or life situation, going through a divorce is a difficult prospect. There are many challenges involved in untangling your life from your spouse's, including making decisions about asset division, child custody, and spousal and child support. In cases with a clear prenuptial agreement, many of these issues may already have been addressed. For everyone else, however, spouses or the courts have to set terms for the divorce.

Once the courts finalize your divorce, life starts to move on. You may start a new relationship or just enjoy the time you get to spend with your kids. You pay your child support, and in cases where your spouse stayed at home to tend to your family, you may pay spousal support as well. While the amount you've been paying is comfortable, now that you're considering retirement, it's starting to look impossible to maintain.

Support amounts are not set in stone

Although the courts issue both child support and spousal support as court orders, that doesn't mean you can't change them. It simply means that the courts require you to comply with the orders for as long as they remain valid. In some situations, child support ends when the children reach the age of majority. In others, such as situations with special needs children, support could continue well beyond that time.

Similarly, with spousal support, there is often a specific timeframe, such as a certain number of years, when you must pay spousal support. In cases with disability or other issues, however, continued spousal support may be part of your order. It's important to realize that although you do have to meet your financial obligations to your family, it is possible to have the courts reconsider the amount of support.

Support levels should work with your budget and income

When the courts determine what amount of support is fair, they look at a number of factors. These include the income of both parents, the standard of living the family expects and the needs of the children. When any of those factors change, it may be time to ask the courts to review the amount of support you have to pay.

In general, the courts will consider adjusting or modifying court-ordered support if there has been a substantial change in circumstance. Retirement is a prime example of this.

Instead of the income associated with work to cover to your life expenses and your support obligations, you will have to budget to survive on a reduced, fixed income from your pension or retirement plan. Losing your job or experiencing a substantial change in income could both be adequate reasons to have support amounts changed by the courts.

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