A married couple typically combines their assets and becomes accustomed to a certain standard of living. If the couple divorces later on, then the financial lifestyle they have enjoyed becomes at risk. This is particularly true in cases where there is a large discrepancy in income between two working spouses, or when one spouse is a stay-at-home parent.
If necessary, Colorado law provides for spousal support payments, also known as maintenance or alimony, recognizing the need for both spouses to be financially independent after a divorce. Calculations for maintenance payments are typically based on the amount of income earned by each spouse. But what happens if the party paying alimony suddenly becomes unemployed and unable to make these regular payments?
When it comes to divorce, Colorado courts expect that its orders will be followed—including orders pertaining to spousal support. If you are the alimony-paying party and you unexpectedly and involuntarily lost your job, you will still be required to make court-ordered payments. You cannot simply decide to stop paying maintenance or only opt to pay a reduced amount without expecting to face any legal consequences.
The good news is that if you become unemployed and suffer from financial hardship, it is possible for you to obtain a maintenance modification. However, you must first establish that there is a substantial and ongoing change to your financial situation before the court issues a modification to the maintenance order. You must also show this change in your financial situation makes the existing terms of the order unjust or unfair. Of course, the standard of fairness is dependent on the judge handling the case.
If you can show that you have made valid efforts to gain new or similar employment, you may be granted an adjustment of maintenance. Once a modification is granted, then the court has the power to lessen or terminate any maintenance payment due after the petition to modify the court order was filed. Since a motion to modify is retroactive to the date it was filed, you may be able to obtain a refund for any maintenance payments made while your petition for modification was pending. Note that any payment due before you filed your motion can no longer be modified.
If you are suffering from financial hardship which can affect your ability to pay spousal support, immediately consult your attorney to file a motion to modify the order.