The legal obligation of a higher-earning spouse to provide financial support for a spouse who makes less money after a divorce is known as alimony in some states or spousal support in others. In Colorado, the legal term used by the courts is maintenance.
The courts will order maintenance in a variety of circumstances, and your circumstances could change. It is possible for you to ask that the courts either reduce the amount of maintenance you pay or eliminate it entirely depending on your situation.
Did the courts order temporary or permanent maintenance to your ex?
One of the most important factors in determining whether you have the right to terminate spousal maintenance payments is whether the courts initially ordered temporary or permanent maintenance. Most cases of spousal maintenance involve temporary payments.
The courts want to ensure that the spouse with lower earning potential or fewer assets has enough support to improve their work history, obtain education and work skills, or otherwise improve their economic circumstances. Typically, temporary support orders will last for a few years or until one spouse reaches certain milestones financially.
Although the courts can order permanent maintenance, it is less common. It is usually only an option in situations where one spouse has medical issues that preclude them from working or if they have custody of a child who will demand lifelong support and care. The courts are less likely to terminate permanent support than they are to terminate temporary maintenance orders.
Did your ex remarry or otherwise change their situation?
Many times, temporary maintenance orders have restrictions in them regarding remarriage. If your ex does remarry, that may be sufficient reason to terminate the order in the eyes of the court. However, your ex likely knows that the courts won't require you to pay support if they have a new spouse.
Some people try to sidestep the issue by moving in with a new romantic partner and sharing their assets without actually marrying them. In that scenario, you may be able to document the issue and ask the courts to intervene. You may have to take similar steps if you know that your ex's financial circumstances have changed due to an inheritance or some other kind of undeclared income.
Have your financial circumstances changed drastically?
Maybe you were the primary wage-earner during your marriage, but now you find yourself struggling to stay afloat financially, possibly because you lost your job or you retired. There are many reasons why you could find yourself financially unable to continue paying maintenance as ordered. You shouldn't have to worry about facing legal consequences for your inability to pay.
Asking the courts for a modification of the maintenance order to reflect your current financial circumstances may be an option. You can use the state's calculator to see if your current situation would likely result in a reduced maintenance amount.
Spousal maintenance and modifications are complex, which is why working with an experienced Colorado family law attorney is often in your best interest if you believe a maintenance modification is in order.