Can my ex-spouse benefit if my business takes off after settling?

It often takes a long time for a startup, retail space, or other business venture to become successful. You may have been struggling to get by during the marriage, but a few years after your separation you start noticing significant profits. Is there any way that your ex can receive a benefit from the fact that your business is now thriving?

First, with regard to your property settlement, once you have entered into a separation agreement or a judge has issued an order on equitable distribution, the intent is that any property issues you have are now final and not subject to modification. So, the fact that your business begins to thrive after your equitable distribution has been finalized does not allow your former spouse to get more.

Alimony is different. A spouse can file a motion seeking to have his or her alimony payments increased. In order to succeed on this motion, several requirements must be met. First, alimony must be contained in a court order in order to be modified. If you agreed to a spousal support amount in a separation agreement, it may not later be altered.

If the alimony award was set forth in a court order, the dependent spouse will still have to show two things have occurred since the original order. First, that the needs of the dependent spouse have increased and second, that the supporting spouse has the ability to meet the increased expenses. The court should not increase support based solely on an increase in the supporting spouse’s income or a decrease in the dependent spouse’s income – both characteristics must exist.

When it comes to modifying alimony, a court will often look to the couple’s standard of living during their marriage to determine what an appropriate level of support is. While this does not necessarily set a ceiling for the level of support, it is a factor the judge will consider. So if you and your former spouse lived a lifestyle of modest means during the marriage, and years later your business becomes successful, the judge will certainly consider such before ordering an increase in the alimony award.


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