The payment of a compensatory allowance decided in a divorce may be reassessed under some conditions. The request must be justified by the ex-spouse, who will need to provide evidence regarding the change of situation.
In a divorce proceeding, the payment of a compensatory allowance can be decided by the Family Court Judge or agreed by the spouses themselves in a divorce agreement. This instrument aims to compensate lifestyle disparities between spouses after the divorce. It may be paid as a fixed amount or as a life annuity.
It may happen that the situation of one of the ex-spouses changes after a few years, and it may be justified to request the reassessment of the compensatory allowance. This will be possible under certain conditions only, depending for instance of the payment form.
Case of a compensary allowance paid as a fixed capital
In most cases, the compensatory allowance is paid as a fixed amount, which can bein the form of monthly installments.
In that case, the reassessment is possible but very limited:
- only the debtor (the ex-spouse paying the compensatory allowance) is able to request the review by the judge;
- the reassessment can only change the terms of payment, for instance by extending the installments. The amount due can not be modified in any case.
The reassessment of the compensatory allowance paid as a fixed capital is defined by the article 275-1 of the French Civil Code.
Case of a compensary allowance paid as a life annuity
Instead of a fixed amount, the judge can exceptionnaly implement a compensatory allowance paid as a life annuity (article 276 of the French Civil Code)
In this case, there are more possibilities to review the allowance:
- both parties can request the reassessment, interruption or withdrawal of the compensatory allowance in a major change occured in their resources or needs;
- the amount due can be modified only downward, except if a clause of review has been included in the divorce agreement (article 279 of the French Civil Code)
The reassessment of the compensatory allowance paid as a life annuity is defined by the article 276-3 of the French Civil Code.
Justifying and providing evidence while requesting the reassessment of a compensatory allowance
While the consequences of a compensatory allowance reassessment are limited when it is paid as a fixed capital, we have seen that the economic issues are much higher when we talk about a life annuity.
The reassessment can be requested by the debtor, who will claim a lower amount, or by the beneficiary who will claim for an increase if it has been provided for by the divorce agreement.
In both cases the requester will have to justify his claim by an important change in the situation one of the parties. The judge will consider both parties situations, especially the following points:
- a change in the professional incomes
- a patrimonial event such as a legacy
- a change in the household composition and its economic consequences on the lifestyle: new spouse, birth of a child, etc.
- deterioration of health conditions
The parties will have to provide evidence to defend their interests while the judge will reassess the compensatory allowance.
An ex-spouse could hide a major change of situation if it is going against his interests. He could for instance hide a stable relationship with direct consequences on his lifestyle, an undeclared work position, or any event which would bring additional incomes.
In order to defend their interests a reassessment proceedings, ex-spouses may call a private investigator who will seek for evidence by investigating on-site or in the parties financial situation.