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Should you seek a COLA clause in your support orders?

If your spouse has been ordered to pay you spousal and/or child support, the original support order can be modified either temporarily or permanently if circumstances change. Changes that could warrant a modification include things like a change in financial circumstances (either yours or your ex's).

For child support, changes in a child's needs as they get older can require that you seek a modification in the amount of support you receive for them. Spousal support typically ends when the recipient remarries or begins to cohabitate with someone. Of course, spousal support may be ordered with a designated end date to give the recipient time to get back into the workforce at a level where they can support themselves.

One way to minimize the frequency with which you'll need to go to court to ask for a modification to one or more support orders is to include a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) clause in each one. With a COLA clause, the payments will change as the annual cost of living rises. This doesn't refer to your specific cost of living, but to the overall cost of living as determined by the Consumer Price Index or some other economic indicator. A COLA clause recognizes that inflation reduces the real value that support payments have to the recipient.

Another type of clause you can seek to have included in a support order is an escalator clause. This entitles the recipient to receive a designated increase in support whenever the payor gets a raise or otherwise increases their earnings. If your spouse is in a job where they receive annual raises, you may prefer to ask for an escalator clause.

The more circumstances you can foresee and cover in your initial divorce agreements, the less time and money you'll need to spend on going to court down the line. An experienced family law attorney can help you plan for any number of eventualities as you negotiate your agreements with your spouse.

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