People change employment situations for a variety of reasons: to cut down on hours worked, for a less stressful environment, or to retire and enjoy the golden years. A change may result in less income but bring with it a more enjoyable lifestyle. In a situation where a party who is paying spousal support switches jobs, the party may ask the court to modify their judgment to reflect their new, lower earnings.
Two criteria must be met for the court to consider setting a new spousal support level. First, the change must have been unanticipated at the time of the divorce. Second, the change must be made in good faith and not primarily for the purpose of avoiding the support obligation.
In Wilson & Wilson, a recent Court of Appeals case, the husband retired a few years before his mandatory retirement age. The Court held that this change was unanticipated and made in good faith. The wife’s benefit received from her interest in her husband’s FERS account was roughly equivalent to her spousal support award. So, the Court modified the divorce decree to eliminate the wife’s spousal support award.