Divorce is often far from easy. It becomes even more challenging when you’re required to financially support your ex-spouse’s new life by sharing a portion of your earnings. Whether it’s termed as alimony, maintenance, or spousal support, you may feel limited in your options for the duration of these payments.
There are a few potential avenues to explore to decrease the amount and duration of your payments.
Can Colorado Alimony Be Modified?
In Colorado, the term “alimony” has been replaced with two distinct categories, each with its significance these include:
- Contractual Spousal Support: In this case, both parties collaborate to negotiate and determine the terms, amount, and duration of the payments.
- Spousal Maintenance: When an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, the court intervenes to establish the terms, amount, and duration of the payments.
Court-ordered spousal maintenance is always subject to modification as it is created and governed by the court. In contrast, certain spousal support arrangements based on contracts cannot be modified. For instance, if you and your ex negotiated a separation agreement explicitly stating that spousal support is non-modifiable, you are bound by it. Even if you lose your job, suffer a physical impairment, or win the Power Ball jackpot, the payments cannot be modified.
Non-modifiable support clauses protect each party in the event of financial improvements or deteriorations. Some divorcees include the non-modifier, while others do not. If you and your ex-spouse have agreed to non-modifiable support, you can stop reading at this point. The court will not be able to assist you.
Modifiable spousal maintenance and support
When it comes to modifying alimony payments, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind:
- You can only reduce payments that are due after you officially file for modification. So, any payments that are already due before that won’t be affected.
- In order to make a case for modification, you’ll need to show that there have been significant and ongoing changes in circumstances that make the original alimony order unfair.
The first condition means that you cannot seek a decrease in the amount of maintenance owed before filing for modification. The second condition places the burden of proof on you to show that:
- There has been a substantial change in circumstances.
- The change is likely to be long-lasting.
- Your new situation makes the original alimony terms unjust.
All three points must be convincingly demonstrated for the court to consider modifying your alimony terms.
Reducing Alimony Payments
In Colorado, judges have full discretion in modifying spousal maintenance or support payments. They make decisions based on their judgment, even if you present a compelling case. Unfortunately, the court may still reject your request to decrease alimony payments.
There are three potential avenues available for exploration. Each of these avenues presents unique opportunities and challenges, providing a range of possibilities to consider. By carefully examining each option, one can make an informed decision that aligns with their goals and aspirations.
A Decrease in Your Income
Financial setbacks can happen to anyone. Whether it’s a job loss, a failing business, or a significant decline in passive income like royalties, these setbacks can make it challenging to meet your own financial obligations, let alone continue paying alimony.
You may wonder if the court will review your circumstances and adjust the amount of maintenance or spousal support you are required to pay. The answer is maybe, but it’s unlikely.
In Colorado, courts require a “substantial and continuing” change in your financial situation before considering a modification. Simply losing your job, taking a pay cut, or experiencing a temporary decrease in business revenues may not be enough to convince most judges. These are often seen as temporary setbacks.
Job loss, early retirement, and accepting a new job with lower pay can all impact alimony and spousal maintenance during a divorce. When faced with these situations, it is important to understand the legal considerations and seek court approval for any modifications to the agreement. Keeping detailed records of job search efforts can help demonstrate good faith in finding employment. It is crucial to promptly file for modification if income decreases, but waiting a couple of months can show sincere efforts to recover previous income. Remember, without a court order, the original terms of the agreement remain in effect.
Your Ex Now Earns Significantly More
Court-ordered maintenance primarily considers the financial needs of the receiving spouse. Often, we find that one spouse may have chosen to stay home or earned significantly less during the marriage. Following a divorce, they are now striving to achieve self-sufficiency. Spousal maintenance serves as temporary financial support during this transition. Is it possible to request a decrease in alimony payments if you discover that your ex now earns a substantially higher income? Absolutely. However, whether the court will grant your modification request, even after confirming that your ex is financially capable, remains uncertain.
In general, it is easier to reduce alimony when the receiving spouse’s financial situation improves. However, the final decision still rests with the judge in your specific case.
Length of Maintenance Order
Timing plays a crucial role, even when seeking modifications to spousal maintenance. One factor that many courts take into account is the remaining number of alimony payments. If there is one year or less left on the order, a judge may choose to maintain it. Here are a few reasons why:
- Your ex-spouse has not held the new job or experienced improved financial circumstances for a sufficient duration.
- It is simpler to let the original terms expire and move on from it all.
- The judge aims to avoid frequent appearances on the docket due to every minor change.
Your Ex Pursues Higher Education
Returning to school to pursue a degree, particularly a post-graduate degree, can enhance your ex-spouse’s earning potential. However, using this academic achievement as a sole reason to request a reduction in alimony may not be advisable, especially if there is a short remaining payment term.
Your Ex is Living with a New Partner
Certain circumstances can lead to the cessation of alimony or maintenance payments. For instance, if the receiving spouse remarries or sadly passes away. But what happens if your ex begins cohabitating with a new romantic partner without getting married?
In many states, alimony automatically ends if there is evidence that the recipient spouse is cohabitating and sharing expenses with a new partner. However, this is not the case in Colorado. The state does not consider cohabitation as a significant change in circumstances. Additionally, it can be difficult to prove how much your former partner relies on their new partner for financial support. Without marriage, neither party has any legal obligation to financially support the other, and they can separate at any time.
Is Modification an Option for You?
Whatever your reason for seeking to decrease alimony, the Family Law Team at Petrelli Previtera has attorneys ready to listen, advise, and advocate on your behalf. Let’s find a solution. Call (720) 821-6440 to schedule your consultation.