In the world of family law, a modification refers to a change in the amount of spousal maintenance (alimony) or child support that is owed after a judgment is entered. Colorado law allows modifications in limited circumstances. This article by Littleton Family Law Attorney Bonnie Shields explains some of the basic law surrounding spousal maintenance modifications and child support modifications in Colorado.
Contractual vs. Non-Contractual Maintenance
The first question to ask when looking to a modification case is does the court have the power to modify your maintenance at all? Colorado’s courts are generally only able to modify maintenance that is court-ordered, that is non-contractual maintenance. The courts are not able to modify maintenance agreements that were contractually entered into between the parties. Sometimes this issue is not clear because the maintenance issues will be referenced in a decree of dissolution of marriage but may still be considered contractual maintenance that the court cannot touch. You should speak with a skilled Littleton Divorce Attorney to determine whether your maintenance is contractual or non-contractual.
Significant and Continuing Change in Circumstance
If your maintenance is modifiable by the courts (because it is non-contractual) you are only able to obtain a modification of your maintenance order if you can prove to the court that there has been a significant and continuing change in circumstances. This standard is often confusing to clients, but essentially this means that something drastic must have changed in your life and that the change will continue relatively indefinitely. Minor disturbances in pay such as demotions, or a few bad months for your business are usually not “significant” enough to qualify. Likewise, losing a job is also usually not sufficient because it is assumed it is not “continuing.”
Modification After Losing a Job
Because your change in circumstances must be “continuing” to qualify for a modification, losing a job is often not sufficient grounds for a modification because it is usually assumed that your unemployment will be temporary. However, long-term disability is more likely to provide grounds for a modification because it is usually presumed to be continuing. If you have lost a job and are hoping for a modification, the big question to ask is will you be able to obtain another job at similar levels of compensation. Sometimes people lose a job and will legitimately never be able to obtain a job that pays that well again. In such cases the change may be considered deserving of a modification because it is ongoing. Of course, any changes in employment should be involuntary to qualify for modification. A voluntary change in circumstances will usually draw the court’s ire when brought up in modification proceedings.
Common Modification Situations
Some common situations in which the courts will allow a modification of maintenance include changes in monthly expenses and retirement. If you suddenly face a major new expense in life that is involuntary and continuing you are more likely to be able to obtain a modification. Likewise, if you have retired your finances will usually become more constrained and the courts frequently deem this sufficient to justify a modification of maintenance.
Free Modification Consultation
If you believe you deserve a modification of maintenance or child support, or if you believe your former spouse is wrongfully seeking maintenance, call Littleton Family Law Attorney Bonnie Shields today for a free consultation. Call (303) 798-1927 or contact us online.