Lis and the Single Girl: The Art of Alimony: Increasing Your Support

My ex-husband, who was certainly not rich when we were married, all of a sudden is living in the lap of luxury. Can I take him to court to increase my alimony and child support?

Sounds like your ex is prancing around in a Corvette and you’re stuck driving the ol’ station wagon? If that’s the case, you might actually have a (legal) case of your own. Let’s start with the basics. Every state has its own criteria for determining the need and extent of alimony. Generally, courts consider several factors in deciding how much your ex needs to shell out. They include: the duration of your marriage, earning capacity of both parties, other income, the contribution of one spouse to career or education and how the earning power will be affected by the parenting requirements of the custodial parent. Additionally, a judge can consider any other factors that his/her honor deems just or proper.

Now, to answer your question. Alimony can be changed, but it can be an uphill battle. Spousal support can be subject to review and modification under the legal standard that you prove a “change in circumstance.” The seminal case defining “change in circumstance” comes from Lepis v. Lepis. Family courts around the country use this case to determine whether to increase your alimony. If there’s an increase in your cost of living, your salary decreased, you’ve lost the house, become unemployed or your old flame has suddenly come into money, courts consider re-defining the alimony order. But keep in mind, you must show a “change in circumstance.”

Now, there may be some good news for you and bad news for your ex. States like Florida have ruled that people who’ve been divorced can sue for an increase in alimony solely because their former spouse became wealthy. The Florida Supreme Court held that “a substantial change in the financially ability of a paying spouse, may, by itself properly support an increase in alimony.” The court stopped short of requiring increased alimony payments for everyone whose ex got rich. But the court did stress that judges must consider the issues of fairness to the extent of which an ex-spouse contributed to the former partner’s success.

Bottom Line: There’s no universal child support or alimony calculator, but I’d say if your ex-hubby is flaunting his new lavish lifestyle and his payments to you don’t seem to add up, it might be time to re-examine the court order — after all, your child’s livelihood is priceless.


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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985.In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987.

Lis is also the author of The 51% Minority — How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It . ( Watch the Video ) and Winning Every Time: How to Use the Skills of a Lawyer in the Trials of Your Life

To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.