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Reduce Alimony after job loss colorado

How to Reduce Your Alimony if You’ve Lost Your Job or Income

When the unexpected happens and you experience a job loss or a reduction in income, we truly sympathize with what you are going through. The good news is that you may qualify to reduce alimony payments.

When the unexpected happens and you experience a job loss or a reduction in income, you may qualify to reduce alimony payments. Navigating the legal process to adjust your alimony obligations can be complex, but with the right guidance, you can find a solution that reflects your current financial situation.

Modifiable and Non-Modifiable Alimony Awards

What most people refer to as alimony has a lot of different names, including “spousal support” and “maintenance.” But regardless of the legal terminology, alimony (for lack of a better word), typically falls into two categories: modifiable and non-modifiable.

If you are in a situation in which you agreed to pay an amount of non-modifiable alimony, the court will never be able to modify the amount of alimony you are required to pay, regardless of your circumstances. Awards of modifiable alimony, however, can be changed by the court when it determines that there has been a material change in circumstances.

A Loss of Income May Provide a Basis for Reducing Your Modifiable Alimony Payment

A job loss, or even a reduction in income, is an event that may qualify as a material change of circumstance, which is what is required to reduce the amount of alimony you’ve been ordered to pay. Most courts have not established an absolute number or percentage of income loss that qualifies to reduce an alimony obligation.

Rather, the court will most often look to the parties’ budgets to determine whether an alimony reduction is appropriate. It is extremely important –  before returning to court to modify alimony –  that you analyze the impact on your bottom line and on your ex’s post-divorce budget to determine whether you should proceed.

Do I Need to Continue Paying Alimony If I Lose My Job?

Yes, you must continue to adhere to the court’s alimony orders in a Colorado divorce case, even if you lose your job. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Court Expectation: The court mandates compliance with its alimony orders.
  • Options for Change: Any adjustments to the alimony amount must be agreed upon by both parties or approved by the court.
  • Legal Provision: According to C.R.S. 14-10-122, you can seek to modify maintenance orders if there is a significant and ongoing change, making the current orders inequitable.
  • Process and Timing: After losing a job, it’s advisable to wait a month or two before filing for modification to demonstrate that the change is ongoing.
  • Potential Outcome: If new employment isn’t found, you could qualify for a reduction or cessation of modifiable alimony payments, but note that any modification is retroactive only from the date of filing.

Can I Increase My Alimony If My Ex’s Income Has Doubled?

Alimony modifications depend on several factors:

  • Substantial Change: You need to prove that there’s a significant and continuous change in circumstances that makes the existing alimony unfair.
  • Comprehensive Analysis: The court will consider both parties’ incomes and financial situations.
  • Types of Alimony Orders: Whether alimony is modifiable depends on if the original orders were “contractual” and “non-modifiable” or if the court retains jurisdiction to modify alimony.

What If My Ex-Spouse Isn’t Paying Alimony?

Colorado law provides several methods to enforce alimony payments:

  • Income Assignment: You can garnish alimony directly from the payer’s wages. In many cases, you can issue the assignment without having to first file a motion asking the court to do so.
  • Payment Handling: Payments can be managed through the Family Support Registry, which ensures the payee receives the funds.
  • Collecting Arrears: If there are overdue payments, you can convert these to a judgment and garnish wages, bank accounts, and potentially other assets. Arrears may also be incorporated into an income assignment to be paid over 24 months.
  • Legal Remedies: While contempt of court is an option, it’s generally seen as a last resort due to the associated costs.

Can I Garnish Alimony from My Ex’s Salary?

Yes, alimony can be garnished from the payer’s income. Here are the key points:

  • Income Assignment: Courts usually allow garnishment of alimony if requested.
  • Payment Routes: Alimony can be paid directly to the recipient or through the Family Support Registry. The latter ensures that payments are processed properly and on-time.

What Qualifies a Spouse for Alimony in Colorado?

In Colorado, whether a spouse qualifies for alimony, also known as “maintenance,” depends on several factors. The court will evaluate the circumstances of both parties to determine if maintenance is necessary and, if so, the amount and duration. Here are the key factors considered:

  1. Financial Resources: The court examines the financial resources of both spouses, including their actual or potential income and any marital property awarded to them during the divorce. The goal is to determine if they can support themselves without assistance.
  2. Marital Lifestyle: The standard of living established during the marriage is considered. The court aims to ensure that neither spouse experiences a drastic change in lifestyle post-divorce, within reasonable limits.
  3. Duration of the Marriage: Longer marriages are more likely to result in maintenance awards, as typically, the longer the marriage, the more impactful the economic interdependence of the spouses.
  4. Age and Health: The age and physical and emotional health of both spouses seeking maintenance can also influence the court’s decision. Poor health or older age may increase the likelihood of receiving maintenance.
  5. Employment and Earning Capacity: The court evaluates the current and future earning capacity of the spouse seeking maintenance. This includes considerations of the time necessary for the recipient to acquire education or training for appropriate employment.
  6. Contributions to the Marriage: This includes both economic contributions (like income) and non-economic contributions (like homemaking or child care) and any career sacrifices made by one spouse to support the other’s career.
  7. Financial Impact of Custody: If the spouse seeking alimony is also the primary custodian of minor children, the court might consider the impact of custody on the spouse’s ability to seek employment.

What Disqualifies a Spouse for Alimony in Colorado?

In Colorado, there are also circumstances that might disqualify a spouse from receiving alimony even though this is a no-fault divorce state. Here are the primary conditions that could potentially disqualify a spouse from receiving alimony:

  1. Sufficient Income: If the court determines that the spouse seeking alimony has sufficient income to support themselves without financial assistance, or if they have significant assets that can provide an adequate standard of living, it may be deemed unnecessary for them to receive alimony.
  2. Short Duration of Marriage: Shorter marriages often result in no alimony awards, especially if both spouses are employed or can readily return to the workforce. There’s less likelihood of economic dependency developing in short marriages.
  3. Marital Misconduct: While Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that marital misconduct generally does not affect the division of property or alimony decisions, there are some extreme circumstances such as economic misconduct (e.g., hiding assets, depleting marital funds) that might influence the court’s decision regarding alimony. Do not, under any circumstances, try to hide income – it will bite you in the behind later.
  4. Waiver in Pre-nuptial or Post-nuptial Agreement: If there is a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in which a spouse waives their right to alimony, this can disqualify them from receiving maintenance, provided the agreement is deemed fair and enforceable at the time of the divorce.
  5. Self-sufficiency of the Requesting Spouse: If the spouse seeking alimony is young, healthy, has a good education, or possesses marketable skills that enable self-sufficiency, the court may determine that maintenance is not necessary – do note this outcome is extremely rare and unlikely.
  6. Living with a New Partner: If the spouse seeking alimony cohabitates with a new partner who substantially supports them financially, the court may consider this factor in reducing or denying alimony.
  7. Equal or Greater Earnings: If the spouse seeking alimony earns the same as or more than the other spouse, alimony might not be granted since the premise of alimony is to address economic disparities between the spouses resulting from the marriage. It is unlikely the higher-earning spouse will receive spousal support under virtually any circumstances.

It’s important, unfortunately, not to get your hopes up. Your fate is up to a judge, not your attorney. So while in court, be kind, agreeable, and courteous. Any act of aggression, hard questioning, too much questioning, and other unpleasant acts could be seen as being in contempt of court.

Hiring a Colorado Financial Specialist & Alimony Attorney In-One

If you’re facing the challenge of adjusting your alimony payments, securing knowledgeable and effective legal representation is crucial. At Colorado Legal Group, we specialize in navigating the complexities of maintenance modifications. Our experienced attorneys are adept at assessing your situation, understanding the nuances of Colorado family law, and advocating for your financial interests.

Fill out our free case evaluation form or call us at 720-594-7360 to get started.