The General Assembly passed new laws which take effect July 1st. These laws not only impact the determination of spousal support, but they also change how and when spousal support can be modified, particularly for payors and payees at or close to retirement age.
As of July 1, 2018, reaching full retirement age as set out in the Federal Social Security Act (Social Security “full retirement age” varies depending on when your born) is now considered a material change in circumstances. In other words, reaching full retirement age will now automatically open the door for a court to examine whether a current spousal support order should be modified or terminated. This is an extremely important development in the law. Previously, judges had complete discretion as to whether reaching full retirement age (or even retiring in general) constituted a material change in circumstances warranting a modification or termination of spousal support.
Pursuant to the new laws, once a court determines that full retirement age has been reached, the court then moves on to consider several factors. These include whether the retirement was contemplated when the spousal support award was made; whether the retirement is mandatory or voluntary and the terms and conditions of retirement; whether the retirement would result in a change of income for the payor or payee; the age and health of the parties; the amount and duration of spousal support that has already been paid; and the assets and property interests of each party from the date of the previous support order to the modification hearing.
In addition, all new spousal support orders must now state whether or not the retirement of either party was considered by the court in determining the award, and if it did what specific aspects of retirement the court used in its calculation.
The changes outlined above will likely provide a path for financial relief for some spousal support payors. To find out more about these changes, or about any aspect of family law, please contact us today.
This post is provided as an educational service and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers in need of assistance with a legal matter should retain the services of competent counsel.