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Changes/Modifications/Adjustments to Spousal Support

In Missouri, spousal maintenance/alimony can only be awarded when, among other things, the requesting spouse cannot meet his or her reasonable needs through property or employment. Whitworth v. Whitworth, 878 S.W.2d 479, 485 (Mo. Ct. App. 1994). A maintenance order can be permanent or short term. Depending on the language in a divorce judgment, a spouse’s maintenance/alimony obligation can be adjusted upward or downward if there is evidence of “changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms [of the original award] unreasonable.” Section 452.370.1, RSMo. The party/former spouse requesting the modification must establish with “detailed evidence” that such a change in circumstances has occurred. McKown v. McKown, 280 S.W.3d 169, 172 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009).

In determining whether or not an applicable change has occurred, the Court considers all financial resources of the parties. Section 452.370.1, RSMo. For example, if change in income makes the spouse paying support unable to pay the original maintenance award, or the spouse receiving maintenance becomes able to meet his or her reasonable needs without the original award, a modification or termination of the maintenance may be warranted. McKown, 280 S.W.3d at 172. An “increase in income for the [spouse receiving maintenance] will not automatically justify modifying maintenance.” Winchester v. Winchester, 163 S.W.3d 57, 60 (Mo. Ct. App. 2005).  The crucial question is if the increase is such that it allows the spouse to meet his or her reasonable needs.

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