When Can I Make a Divorce Plan Modification?

Once the final decree has been entered, most people believe their divorce is over. However, there are some situations in which a divorce settlement or judgment may need to be changed. Keep in mind only certain aspects of your divorce decree can be modified. Court orders involving asset and property distribution are typically unable to be altered. Learn more about when a modification to your divorce order may be appropriate.

Child Custody

Child custody and parenting time are issues that may need to be readdressed as children get older and circumstances change. Either parent may request to modify a child custody order. However, child custody and decision-making orders can only be modified every two years, unless the child’s health and/or emotional development is endangered or a custodial parent is making plans to move far away. You must be able to demonstrate that the modification is in the best interest of the child, as well as show circumstances have changed significantly since the last time the custody order was modified. Keep in mind that adjustments to parenting time may also affect your child support obligations.

Child Support

Child support payments are likely to fluctuate over the course of a child’s life. A parent’s child support obligations are based on the incomes of both parents, the amount of parenting time granted to each parent, and the needs of the child. If any of these factors change, your child support order should be modified to reflect your family’s current situation. You can submit a request to modify your child support order in the following circumstances:

  • your child has been emancipated;
  • either parent has experienced a change in income;
  • the cost of child care, health insurance, or other expenses for the child has changed; or
  • the amount of time the child spends with either parent has changed.

Alimony

Alimony is awarded based on the supported spouse’s needs and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. If either of these change, a modification may be in order. An alimony agreement might need to be altered if either spouse experiences a drastic change in his or her financial situation. For example, if the supported spouse lands a big-time job with a higher salary than that of the supporting spouse, alimony payments should probably be eliminated or reduced.

Parenting Plans

Parenting plans typically include agreements regarding visitation arrangements, as well as each parent’s support obligations. Many parents also include guidelines for communication, rules for significant others, and lifestyle decisions, such as decisions about the child’s religious observance, medical care, education decisions, and after-school activities. If both parents agree to the modification, they can jointly submit an amended parenting plan to the judge for approval. However, if a dispute between the parents cannot be settled out-of-court, the judge may grant a hearing to consider the proposed modification.

Contact a Denver Divorce Modification Lawyer Today

If you need to change your child custody, child support, or alimony order, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Divorce Matters. Call us at (720) 726-1417 or fill out the online contact form to request a consultation at our Greenwood Village or Lakewood locations.

Should I Ask For Spousal Support In My Divorce?

In Colorado, spousal support (called maintenance, also known as alimony) is not an automatic right in divorce. It is a decision made by the courts, typically when one party does not have sufficient assets to meet their needs following divorce and is unable to support themselves through gainful employment or has childcare responsibilities they cannot ignore. So, should you ask for maintenance in your divorce?

The answer comes down to the particulars of each divorce case.

Health and Age

Spousal support may be granted to you if you have a medical condition that affects your ability to work or requires expensive treatment, especially if you have an ongoing condition. Additionally, if you are near retirement age, the courts will consider how your retirement will affect your finances and quality of life to determine if you should be eligible for maintenance.

Education and Employment

If your spouse has a significantly higher education than you and earns much more as a result, the courts will consider spousal support. This is especially true in cases with unemployed stay-at-home parents or spouses who will need time to increase their education and experience to find gainful employment.

How Long Have You Been Married?

Depending on the length of your marriage, you may be able to receive spousal support. The duration of spousal support will be determined by the length of marriage, with longer marriages receiving longer term spousal support.

Some people decide to trade potential spousal support for a greater share of the divorce settlement, while others prefer to receive monthly payments. The only way to know which is best for you is to discuss your case with your divorce attorney.

Our Denver divorce lawyers can assist you in determining is spousal support is right for you.

How Much Alimony Will I Receive In Divorce?

Calculation of spousal maintenance (or alimony, as you may have heard it called) is based on a series of factors.

Maintenance will only be granted if the courts find that the spouse seeking it cannot provide for his or her reasonable needs and lacks sufficient property including property apportioned to him or her. Additionally, the spouse seeking maintenance must be unable to become self-supporting through employment or be the custodian of a child that prevents said spouse from seeking reasonable employment.

Once the court has decided that a spouse meets the above qualifications, they will make the following considerations in deciding the length and amount of spousal support to be granted:

  • The spouse’s financial situation, including any assets obtained through the divorce settlement as well as any child support the spouse is receiving
  • The spouse’s potential earning capacity, including time it would take for the spouse to receive the needed education and training to facilitate that earning capacity
  • The spouse’s standard of living during the marriage
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The spouse’s age, as well as his or her physical and emotional condition
  • Whether the person paying for maintenance is able to afford the maintenance agreement

If you would like to see for yourself what your prospects are for spousal maintenance, you’re in luck ”“ there’s an app for that. You can find it by going to the App Store (if you’re on iOS) or on the Google Play store (if you’re on Android) and searching for Divorce Matters Colorado Spousal Maintenance and Child Support Calculator, or you can click the links on this page.

When Can My Spouse File to Extend My Alimony Payments?

Often when a couple gets a divorce, the terms for alimony (spousal maintenance) are defined by the divorce decree. But the terms of maintenance as set forth in the divorce decree are not necessarily ironclad and can be changed under a few different circumstances.

What Is Substantial and Continuing Change?

The most common means of maintenance modification comes when one party experiences what is called a “substantial and continuing change” in their lifestyle that makes the previous maintenance terms unconscionable. In layman’s terms, something came up and the old agreement is now unfair. It can be long-term job loss, career changes, remarriage, having to care for an elderly family member or perhaps becoming developing a disability.

However, just because you have undergone a substantial and continuing change does not guarantee that spousal maintenance can be modified. When you create your divorce agreement, maintenance is something you are going to have to discuss with your spouse. Depending on how your divorce progresses and the terms you set with your spouse, you can restrict the court’s ability to grant a maintenance modification. If your agreement declares that maintenance cannot be modified, the courts can’t do anything about it ”“ but you may be able to find a way around this by reading the direct language of your agreement. Loopholes can exist that grant the courts’ jurisdiction to modify maintenance.

Discuss Modification with an Attorney

If a modification is something you wish to pursue, you will want to discuss it with an attorney who can help you request a hearing on your motion for modification. Often, courts will deny motions that do not involve a hearing.

Our Denver divorce attorneys will tailor action plans to secure the best outcome to your divorce case.

How Does Colorado Calculate Alimony?

Spousal maintenance can be complicated and difficult to understand. Luckily, the state of Colorado has made it a little easier. Beginning in January 2014, Colorado courts calculate alimony (also known as spousal maintenance) with a standard formula. While you shouldn’t assume that the formula is a guaranteed payment, it does help attorneys and their clients to determine how much they may be entitled to.

Maintenance Amount

The starting amount of alimony after divorce is decided based on the income of both spouses combined. This standard method applies to any couples making $240,000 or less throughout the year. For couples who meet the income requirements, maintenance is determined to be 40 percent of the higher income earner’s gross yearly income, minus 50 percent of the lower income earner’s gross yearly income. So, for example, if the higher income earner earns $100,000 annually, before taxes, and the lower income earner makes $60,000 the formula would work as follows:

Yearly Spousal Maintenance = .4 ($100,000)- .5 ($60,000) = $10,000

Monthly Spousal Maintenance = $10,000/12 = $833.34

Maintenance Duration

There is another formula that will provide the duration of alimony payments. This formula scales dependent on the duration of the marriage, ranging from three years to 20 or more years. This formula is a little more complicated, so it is best to contact an attorney to help you determine the possible length of alimony payments. As an example, a spouse married for three years will pay alimony for 31 percent of the length of the marriage. A spouse married for 20 years pays alimony for 50 percent of the duration of the marriage.

In Practice

While the alimony formula is extremely helpful in determining the likely alimony amount and duration, it is simply a guideline. Many judges do not use it, instead opting to calculate alimony based on the individual facts of a case. In this case, the formula is used as a baseline calculation from which a judge will then apply his or her own discretion based on marital property division and the needs of each party.

Contact a Colorado Alimony Attorney

If you have more questions about how alimony is calculated or would like to speak to one of our expert divorce attorneys, please give us a call at (720) 386-9176 or contact us via our website! 

How Do I Qualify for Spousal Support?

In some divorces, one party has a much higher income and capability to bring in money than the other. This may involve one parent who forgoes a job outside the home to take care of the children and then has a hard time finding employment after divorce. That is what spousal maintenance is designed to fix. You may not have ever heard of spousal maintenance, but you’ve probably heard the term alimony before ”“ it’s the same thing.

Not every divorcee qualifies for spousal maintenance, which can be temporary or “permanent” depending on the court’s opinion of both divorcees’ needs. We say “permanent” because only rarely is maintenance indefinite; it is seen largely as a way for the lower earner to get back on his or her feet after a divorce, although in some cases permanent alimony can be granted.

Colorado employs a specific formula for temporary maintenance for couples with a combined income of $75,000 or less. The formula is that the higher earner pays 40 percent of his or her monthly adjusted gross income minus 50 percent of the lower earner’s monthly adjusted gross income. Of course, the formula can be adjusted depending on the couple’s needs, the judge’s opinion and how property is being divided between the spouses.

For couples making more than $75,000, the judge can still award temporary maintenance to the lower earner, and regardless of individual income, the court can grant “permanent” maintenance depending on whether the lower earner is able to work or is receiving less marital property in the settlement.

As for how much spousal support the court is willing to grant, there are several things to consider. Awards of marital property, a couple’s standard of living, the health of the spouses and future earning capacity all factor into spousal support.

Call an Experienced Alimony Lawyer in Greenwood Village Today

At Divorce Matters, our Denver divorce lawyers strive to provide the best possible experience for couples seeking dissolution of their marriage.

When Can I Modify Spousal Support Payments?

Life is full of surprises ”“ sometimes bad ones. Financial surprises, such as an unexpected layoff, a medical emergency or a new career, in particular, can cause a great deal of upheaval in a person’s life, especially for someone recently divorced. If you are a divorcee who is dealing with alimony payments to your ex-spouse (we call it spousal maintenance in Colorado), you may run into dire straits that require modification to your payments.

In Colorado, the standard for maintenance modification is that there must be a “substantial and continuing change” in circumstances that make the current terms unfair. Temporary unemployment, for example, is something that would not meet the criteria for modification; it is substantial, but not continuing. Suffering a disability that directly leads to loss of income, though, would meet the criteria generally.

Modification can be made impossible, though, if at the time of divorce an agreement is made that the maintenance is contractual and non-modifiable, in which case modification may not be possible.  If your court order anticipated future modification of maintenance upon the happening of certain events, such as retirement, than you may be able to modify the current maintenance amount based upon the current financial circumstances of the parties.

Steps to Take to Modify Maintenance

  • Collect relevant information. This could include tax returns, W-2s, paystubs and other things like medical bills. You will need these to complete a Sworn Financial Statement.
  • Revisit your original divorce documents. This will help you ensure that modification is possible under the original decree.
  • Seek legal help. You are going to need the services of an experienced family law attorney to help make your case for maintenance modification.

Contact an Alimony Attorney in Denver Today

Alimony can be a complicated aspect of divorce, but it doesn’t have to be. The experienced alimony attorneys at Divorce Matters have the necessary skills to ensure you either pay or get paid the proper amount of alimony. Contact us today to learn more.

Acrimony over Alimony?

When two people in Colorado get divorced, circumstances may create the need for one of the parties to receive maintenance (also known as spousal support or alimony). Perhaps one party lacks the property necessary to meet basic needs, or is unable to work to support his or herself. In these situations, the courts might look at a few factors, including the length of the marriage, the health of both parties and the allocation of marital property to determine if one spouse is entitled to spousal support.

But the process does not always end there. In some cases, the supporting spouse will refuse to pay spousal support. Nonpayment of spousal support can result in dire financial straits for the party owed, especially in cases where the party cannot support themselves due to poor health or the need to care for a child.

How to Prove My Spouse Is Not Paying Spousal Support

If you are going to seek legal action against a nonpaying spouse, you must first provide proof of nonpayment. In Colorado, the proof can come in the form of:

Ӣ A signed affidavit declaring, under penalty of perjury, that you have not received payment
Ӣ Records of nonpayment certified by a court clerk
Ӣ Family Support Registry (FSR) records of nonpayment

Divorce Matters ”“ Denver Family Law Attorneys

Are Women Responsible for Spousal Support?

Many women are now the breadwinners of the household, and more men find themselves taking care of the house for the wife and kids. As an extreme example of disparity of wealth in relationships, diva extraordinaire Mariah Carey (net worth approximately $500 million) is divorcing husband Nick Cannon (worth a measly couple million.) She has a prenuptial agreement, but the confidentiality clause prevents us from pouring over the gossip rags to learn about her spousal support terms.

However, you don’t need a multi-million Las Vegas residency gig to be on the hook for alimony to your soon-to-be ex. The Bureau of Labor Statistics claims almost 40 percent of women now out-earn their husbands. But there are ramifications for women’s increased earning capacities in divorce.

What Do Colorado’s New Maintenance Laws Mean for Spouses?

Alimony in Colorado is called maintenance, and has historically been determined by a combination of factors such as education, job capabilities and whether you are a stay-at-home parent. However, judges in the cases had a lot of leeway””leading to different alimony amounts for similar situations throughout the state.

Last year, however, Colorado decided guidelines were necessary to reduce the differences in maintenance. The 2014 guidelines are gender-neutral and theoretically more consistent for both men and women””less surprises, less differences in courtrooms, and less uncertainty for divorcing couples. However, the 2014 guidelines are still discretionary.

So what does this mean for couples getting married? If you plan to be a stay-at-home dad or a much lower earner than your wife, or if you are a woman who is a career-oriented high earner, consider a prenuptial agreement. You can work out a mutually beneficial maintenance schedule or have it waived entirely. Many couples with prenuptial agreements simply put the document away and live happily ever after””it’s simply a safeguard for life’s unexpected trajectories.

(Oh and Mariah, call us before the next wedding!)

Divorce Matters ”“ Family Law Attorneys Serving Denver

Changes in Colorado’s Alimony & Child Support Formula

The New Year will ring in big changes in Colorado for those filing for divorce or looking to modify child support. In what some are calling “groundbreaking legislation,” Colorado has joined the national alimony reform movement and will change the way maintenance payments are calculated beginning January 1, 2014. Also arriving are increases to the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligation which will increase the combined gross annual income from $240,000 per year ($20,000 per month) to $360,000 per year ($30,000 per month).

The revised maintenance law, which uses the child support guidelines to determine the maximum combined annual income, will have the largest impact on marriages that are three to twenty years in length in which the couple’s combined annual income does not exceed $360,000. The new formula essentially subtracts 50 percent of the lower earner’s monthly income from 40 percent of the higher earner’s monthly income. The period of support is then based on 45 percent of the length of the marriage.

An example of how this formula will work:

Length of Marriage: 10 Years
45% of Marriage Length: 4.5 years
Husband’s Income: $200, 000
40% of monthly income: $6, 667
Wife’s Income: $40,000
50% of monthly income: $1,667
Resulting Alimony Payment: $5,000/month for 4.5 years

Parties should be aware that a receiving spouse cannot receive in total (combined income and maintenance), more than 40% of the parties combined adjusted monthly gross income.

Lawmakers hope that relying on a standard equation will take some of the emotions and unintentional bias out of these financial verdicts. Additionally, the anticipation is that the formula will create a more uniform playing field and work towards the elimination of vast discrepancies in alimony allowances between different counties. While Boulder once cultivated a reputation as a “maintenance haven,” the hope is that awards should become more consistent across the state as judges begin using the new calculation method.

It is important to keep in mind that this formula is only intended as a suggested guideline for judges. That means it’s just a framework to help determine an alimony settlement, not a set-in-stone mandate. The judge will still take into consideration all financial resources and needs before determining whether, and how much, alimony needs to be paid.

Our attorneys are well-versed in the application of the new laws, so please do contact us if you have questions about your own case. Find us on the web at www.divorce-matters.com