During Oklahoma divorce proceedings, it is quite common for one of the spouses to seek alimony payments from his or her ex – especially in circumstances when one spouse heavily relied upon the financial support of his or her ex during the marriage.
However, even in situations in which an Oklahoma court awards one spouse alimony payments, it is possible that changes to each of the ex-spouses’ lives may compel the court to modify or terminate these payments. After all, as couples move on with their lives following divorce, change is almost inevitable.
For example, there are several instances in which it would be required to terminate Oklahoma alimony payments, such as when the alimony recipient dies or gets remarried. However, modification or termination of alimony payments may also be expected when either of the ex-spouses experiences a significant change in circumstances, or if the alimony recipient begins to cohabitate with another person of the opposite sex.
Change in circumstances and its impact of alimony
When it comes to modifying Oklahoma alimony payments based upon a change in circumstances, either the payor or the recipient can petition the court for an alimony modification. For instance, if the payor can no longer afford the payments, he or she can ask for a decrease in his or her alimony obligations. Conversely, if a change in circumstances creates an excess need for alimony by the recipient, he or she can also request a modification.
Regardless of which ex-spouse asks for the modification, Oklahoma law expressly states that the change of circumstances must be “substantial and continuing so as to make the terms of the [alimony payments] unreasonable to either party.”
Cohabitation and alimony
The second common situation in which a modification or termination of alimony may be requested is when the alimony recipient begins to voluntarily cohabitate with a person of the opposite sex.
Importantly, cohabitation does not automatically terminate the duty to pay alimony but instead requires the court to consider the economic consequences of the alimony recipient’s cohabitation. For example, Oklahoma courts have opined that modifications based on cohabitation are not meant to regulate morality, but rather to monitor the necessity of support when cohabitation may have diminished the recipient’s economic need.
Consequently, one Oklahoma case, Wilson v. Wilson, determined that once the court establishes that cohabitation exists, it must review the totality of the recipient spouse’s circumstances as “impacted by the economic effect of the recipient’s cohabitation” with another person.
Assistance is available for alimony
Ultimately, alimony modification in Oklahoma can be very difficult given the complex statutes and case law, which is why it is always best to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney if you are embroiled in an alimony dispute. A knowledgeable attorney can review the facts of your case and help ensure your rights are protected throughout the entire process.