As the economy continues to limp toward recovery in Georgia, many people are finding themselves out of work or making less than they previously did for several months (or even years) longer than they anticipated. As such, many Atlanta residents are no longer able to meet financial obligations dating back to their pre-recession life and income.

One such obligation is spousal support, more commonly known as alimony. Payments that were easy to make when you had a job and a steady income can quickly become impossible when you are on unemployment and struggling to make ends meet. However, it is possible to receive a downward modification of your spousal support obligation, provided that you follow the correct procedure for doing so.

Many spouses successfully reach new agreements regarding spousal support on their own without the intervention of the court. While this is certainly a positive step, it is important that you have your agreement approved and made binding by a family court judge. If you do not, your ex-spouse can come back at any time and begin demanding the higher support amount, and possibly even demand back pay in the full amounts you still technically owe. This could lead to greater conflict and severely negative consequences for you.

Therefore, it is important to seek a modification through the official legal family court process. You will need to file a motion and continue paying the full amount ordered by your original divorce decree while that motion is pending. If you and your ex-spouse are in agreement about the modification, the court will modify the existing order by agreement. At that point, you may begin paying the new, agreed-upon amount.

Source: Westport News, "Informal agreement on alimony not binding," Susan Filan, Nov. 6, 2012