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Modification Frequently Asked Questions: Modifying Alimony

  1. My ex quit her job. Can she modify her child support and alimony?The general rule of thumb divorce and custody attorneys tp  follow is that you cannot just quit your job and expect to get a modification of child support or alimony. In such an instance, the court would find this person to be voluntarily unemployed. As such, the court will likely attribute the person’s old income to him or her and not grant a modification. It is a different story if someone is fired or laid off. In those instances, the court will look at what efforts have been made to gain new, similar employment. Quitting a job is a whole different ball game and Colorado courts do not give people a benefit on child support or alimony for deciding they are just not going to work.
  2. What is the standard to modify my alimony?The standard for modification of alimony, or spousal maintenance, is set forth, as with child support, in C.R.S. 14-10-122. However, unlike child support modification, the standard is undefined and not tied into a specific numerical or dollar threshold. Specifically, C.R.S. 14-10-122 indicates, “the provisions of any decree respecting maintenance may be modified… only upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unfair.” In any motion or hearing regarding a modification of alimony, the judge will ultimately be the one who decides what is “fair” or “unfair.” As such, the outcome in any modification of maintenance case can truly depend upon the judge’s subjective viewpoints on all relevant factors. With a child support modification, one only needs to show that numbers have changed, such as income, daycare costs, etc., such that the bottom line child support amount would change by 10% or more. The same equation or formula does not apply to an alimony modification. Though statute and case law define a “substantial and continuing” change as one leading to a 10% or more change in child support, there is not guide post for assessing whether changes in circumstances tied into alimony meet that statutory criteria. Furthermore, unlike a child support modification, in order to get maintenance modified, one must show that the prior orders are also now “unfair.” We are adept at analyzing each case to assess whether the changes presented are substantial and continuing to the point that the terms of the existing alimony order are unfair.

    Prior to assessing any existing alimony, or maintenance, order for court modification purposes, it is important to ascertain whether that order contains provisions divesting the court of jurisdiction to modify. Specifically, parties may have previously entered into a contractual and non-modifiable agreement regarding the alimony. If so, the court is divested of any jurisdiction to alter the prior order and the alimony cannot be modified, under any circumstances.

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