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Can Increased Cost of Living Justify Modification of Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is paid by one spouse to help the other keep up their standard of living after a divorce. It is usually paid in a fixed, recurring amount that continues for a set period of time. A change in the economic circumstances of either ex-spouse may warrant a modification of the payment amount. However, proving eligibility for a modification can be difficult.

Normally, a mere increase in your cost of living will not warrant a modification of spousal maintenance. If you and your spouse included a cost of living adjustment (COLA) clause in your divorce settlement agreement, the terms of that clause will control.  Otherwise, you will need to meet the standards of New York’s spousal maintenance statute.

Maintenance can be modified if at least one of the following is true:

  • A substantial change in circumstances has occurred.
  • At least three years have passed since the last support order was modified or entered.
  • There has been a 15 percent or greater change in either spouse’s income.

If the modification request is based on a substantial change in circumstances, the change must be involuntary. A voluntary change — such as when a paying spouse chooses not to keep employed at their level of skill and education — does not qualify.

The spouse seeking the modification must provide evidence of the change, why it occurred and how it has affected that spouse’s life. The following are examples of changes that may be found substantial:

  • An end to child support payments
  • A job loss or business failure
  • A disability caused by a serious injury or illness
  • Inability to work
  • Retirement

An increase in cost of living due to general economic conditions does not typically meet the statutory standard, but it may in your personal situation. For example, if your rent was suddenly increased to a significant degree, a court may find your current maintenance payment inadequate and grant you a modification.

Whether you are paying or receiving spousal maintenance, your eligibility to modify the amount will depend upon a strong presentation of all evidence in your favor. An experienced New York spousal maintenance lawyer can guide you effectively through the process.

At the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis in Buffalo, New York, our family law attorneys have a track record of success with spousal maintenance modification requests. Call 716-886-9600 or contact us online to arrange a consultation.

Randy  S.  Margulis Attorney Photo
Randy S. Margulis
Member

As a Buffalo divorce lawyer for 28 years, I have devoted myself to solving the problems that affect families throughout the Buffalo metropolitan area and Western New York. As a family law attorney, I make it my goal to create a partnership of trust with my clients. People put their trust in me to handle cases that can potentially have a long-lasting impact on not only their lives, but the lives of their family as well.

Alexandra M. Rockwood Attorney Photo
Alexandra M. Rockwood
Associate

Alexandra M. Rockwood is an Associate Attorney with the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis & Associates and has been with the firm since early 2020. She practices primarily in the areas of matrimonial and family law. Ms. Rockwood graduated magna cum laude from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in History and minors in Political…

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