About Changing an Order if the Situation Changes

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A person can ask for a change (called a “modification”) in the spousal or partner support amount when there is a “change in circumstances.” For example,

  • The income of the person paying support is reduced because he or she lost his or her job;
  • The income of the person receiving support increased because of a promotion at work; or
  • An obligation of one of the parties to pay child support (in addition to spousal support) has ended.

The support amount will NOT change until someone files a motion Opens new window to get a new court order. The current support order will stay in effect -- even if one of the former spouses or partners has no income, or less income -- unless he or she asks the court to change the court order.


The law only allows a judge to change a support amount for future payments, starting the date a motion Opens new window to modify was filed, even if the change in circumstances happened earlier. (See California Family Code, section 3603) Opens new window The court is not able to lower support for the previous months, nor is the court able to lower the total amount of past support (“arrearage”) Opens new window that is owed.

Spousal support may be modified many times, and either of the former spouses or partners can later ask the judge to change it again if the situation changes again.

If either of the former spouses or partners needs help with the paperwork, he or she can contact the Family Law Facilitator’s Office Opens new window in the county where he or she lives for assistance.

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