If You're Getting Ready to Retire, Consider Support Modification

Most people believe that once the courts finalize a divorce, the terms are set in stone. In reality, the Colorado family law system is much more flexible than that. The courts understand that people's life situations change, which can require changes to custody agreements, as well as spousal or child support orders. That's why people paying spousal or child support have the right to request modifications of the support order when their income changes.

A major reason why you might worry about the amount of spousal or child support you must pay is impending retirement. Divorce can impact when and how you retire because you then must split your assets with your spouse, including your retirement account. When the time for retirement arrives, you;ll want to ensure that you have adequate resources available for all of your needs for the rest of your life.

Retirement generally means a substantial dip in income

Many people wait to retire until they've paid off their mortgage. They may also set specific financial goals for retirement funds or investment accounts prior to ending their careers. Doing so can mean there is no worry about making mortgage payments. Having adequate resources for basic needs -- from taxes to groceries -- offers peace of mind.

Regardless of whether or not you've paid off your mortgage in full, you will still have other monthly expenses. Most retirees experience a decrease in their monthly income, even with pensions or dividends from investments. Avoiding unnecessary expenses and planning a monthly budget are critical to financial stability on a fixed income during retirement. For many retiring parents, support can represent a substantial monthly expense that undermine their budgeting attempts.

In these or similar circumstances, having to adjust to living on less can be the catalyst for petitioning the court for a support modification.

When income changes, support levels can change too

When the courts set the amount for child and spousal support, they look at various factors that may include the couple's standard of living, any special needs of the parties receiving support and the income of both divorcing spouses. When income changes dramatically, as it likely will after retirement, the amount of support you're ordered to pay may also decrease.

In general, you can request a review and hearing regarding support amounts if the amount you have to pay will change by at least 10 percent. If that applies in your case, request that the court review the ordered amount and adjust it to reflect your reduced retirement income. Your attorney will have to provide the court with financial documentation of the change in income. That means you will likely delay any petitions for support modification until after retirement, because until your income changes after the transition, you still must pay the full amount ordered.