Spousal support awards and agreements are modifiable throughout the support period except as otherwise provided by agreement of the parties.
However, unlike child support, the court’s continuing power to modify spousal support is dependent on the terms of the court’s order. Unless jurisdiction to award support has been reserved, post-judgment spousal support is limited by the stated duration of the order.
Once the Court has “terminated its jurisdiction” over the issue of spousal support, the supported spouse will generally not be able to return to court and seek to extend spousal support.
However, if there is a step-down spousal support order that provides that spousal support will terminate on a certain date absent the party petitioning the court prior, it is possible for the supported spouse to seek that the court further extend support as long as the supported spouse files their request prior to the termination date.
In marriages of less than ten years, the statute provides a presumption that support should be granted for half the length of the marriage. As a practical matter, in the late 1990s it appears that spousal support duration is linked to a transition period from married life to single life. The circumstances vary from person-to-person, but the courts tend to disfavor “lifetime support.” Thus, even in a marriage of long duration it is generally possible that the court will terminate spousal support after a “reasonable period of time.”
The court will often issue a “Gavron Warning” which provides that the supported spouse must make reasonable efforts to become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time and that failure to do so may be a grounds for terminating support.
A “Family support” order may be modified to separate orders for child and spousal support where there has been a change of circumstances justifying increased child support.