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In Colorado, alimony or spousal support is known as “maintenance.” Maintenance is usually determined during divorce proceedings with the goal of enabling each spouse to maintain the lifestyle they became accustomed to during their marriage and to help transition the recipient spouse to live independently following their divorce. However, sometimes circumstances change, and the spousal maintenance agreement you have in place may no longer make sense or serve its goals.
There are a variety of circumstances under which either of the parties may wish to modify the spousal maintenance order they have in place. There are also circumstances or events that may cause spousal maintenance to terminate automatically.
If you are seeking to modify a spousal maintenance arrangement, the experienced Denver spousal support attorneys at Halligan LLC can help. Modifying an existing maintenance order can be challenging and emotionally taxing, particularly if there is a dispute between parties. A knowledgeable and sensitive lawyer can protect your interests and determine the best path for achieving your desired outcome.
What Is Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance, formerly alimony, is an ongoing payment that one spouse (the one who earns more) pays to the other spouse to help meet the receipt spouse’s reasonable financial needs. Spousal maintenance can be paid during and after the divorce process.
Colorado law outlines several different types of spousal maintenance, including:
- Rehabilitative – This is the most common type of spousal maintenance in the state of Colorado. The basic purpose of rehabilitative maintenance is for the spouse earning the higher income to provide the lower-income spouse with financial support until the lower-income spouse is able to acquire the necessary skills to do a job and support themselves financially and meet their reasonable financial needs. This type of maintenance commonly occurs when one spouse left a career to pursue marriage or was otherwise dependent on their spouse for their financial needs.
- Temporary – Temporary support is spousal support that one spouse provides to the other during the divorce process. When a couple stops sharing their income, one spouse can often be left with financial hardships.
- Permanent – Permanent support is rarely awarded, but it may be ordered when one spouse is not able to earn income or become financially self-supporting in the future. This could be due to their age, if they have a disability, or due to the length of the marriage.
Typically, the court calculates the amount and length of spousal maintenance based on a number of factors, such as the financial circumstances of the two parties and their contributions to the marriage.
In many cases, a divorcing couple may create a maintenance agreement among themselves that they explicitly agree the maintenance to be non-modifiable. In this case, the court does not have the authority to modify the maintenance order. However, as long as the court calculated and ordered spousal maintenance and the parties did not agree for the maintenance to be non-modifiable, either of the parties may later file a motion to modify the arrangement.
When Can I Modify Maintenance?
Because the purpose of most maintenance awards is to provide one of the spouses with rehabilitative income while they gain the necessary skills to acquire a job and become financially independent, maintenance tends to terminate at a specific time.
In most cases, a court will determine an end date for when spousal maintenance is to be terminated. However, there are circumstances in which spouses may wish to modify maintenance - either the term and/or the amount.
Although maintenance awards that have been determined by the courts are always modifiable, they can generally only be modified if they meet certain criteria. Per Colorado law, modification of maintenance is typically only permitted if there has been a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the original maintenance award unfair.
Some circumstances under which spousal maintenance may be modified or terminated include:
- When one of the spouses, either the payer or the payee, passes away. In these cases, termination of maintenance is usually automatic.
- When the party who is receiving spousal maintenance gets remarried or enters a civil union with another individual. In this case, maintenance will typically terminate automatically. Upon the remarriage of the payee, the other spouse can simply stop payments and usually doesn’t need to go to court to make an official modification, as long as there is no written agreement between the two former spouses that maintenance must continue after remarriage.
- When one of the spouses experiences a significant change in financial circumstances. In this case, the spouse who is attempting to modify spousal maintenance will need to be able to show that their financial situation has drastically changed and that it is ongoing. For example, if the spouse who is paying spousal maintenance suddenly loses their job, immediately filing a motion to modify spousal maintenance would be considered premature, because they could not yet show an ongoing change in financial circumstances.
In some states, maintenance can terminate when the recipient moves in with a new romantic partner. But in Colorado, maintenance does not necessarily terminate in this circumstance. If a paying spouse wishes to end maintenance because the payee has moved in with a new romantic partner, they must be able to show that the payee’s financial status has been significantly improved because of the cohabitation, or that the recipient spouse has entered into a common law marriage.
How to Modify Spousal Maintenance in Colorado
There is a specific legal process outlined by the state of Colorado that has to be followed when a spouse is attempting to modify spousal maintenance. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney can argue your case on your behalf.
Contact Halligan LLC Today
There are multiple legitimate reasons to modify maintenance. If you or your ex-spouse have experienced a substantial change in financial circumstances, you may be entitled to modify your spousal maintenance arrangement to reflect your current situation.
Many people may fail to modify their existing arrangements because they believe that their change in circumstances, such as losing their job, is merely temporary. But if you are experiencing an ongoing financial hardship, it’s possible you may be able to modify maintenance.
If you believe you have a legitimate reason to modify your current maintenance order, contact one of our experienced Denver maintenance and spousal support lawyers at Halligan LLC today. We will review your case, collect all relevant evidence, and make your case for modification in court. Call us at (720) 608-2361 or contact us online today for a confidential consultation.