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What happens if we need to modify spousal support?

As part of your divorce, you may have reached an agreement on financial support or had a judge issue an order on the matter. However, your circumstances or your ex’s circumstances may warrant a change in the final decree regarding spousal support. There are a variety of valid reasons for an ex spouse to request a change in payment. These include loss of job or change in income, the children grow and their needs change, or perhaps one side remarries.

Generally speaking, both sides must agree that a post-decree modification is necessary. Until an agreement has been reached or an order has been issued, it is never wise for the obligated ex-spouse to unilaterally stop paying spousal support.

What if you dont want to change the agreement?

There are laws in place in Colorado for enforcement of the divorce decree. One common way to enforce an agreement is to file a contempt motion, which essentially requests a ruling that someone has violated the terms of the agreement. The forms of contempt include:

Remedial contempt: This is a request for civil punishment until they pay all or some of the support. For this you only have to prove that they haven’t paid the agreed upon support.

Punitive contempt: This is criminal in nature and involves jail time or a fine. For this, you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they had the money but chose not to pay.

Ways to collect money

Once the court holds a spouse in contempt, it can institute methods of seizing funds:

  • Garnish earnings or assets
  • Place liens on a house or other valuable items like a car
  • Force them to sell property or assets to make payments
  • Other penalties can include suspending professional or occupational licenses, suspension of driver’s license or lowering of a credit rating.

Pathways for resolution

If a spouse is not reliably paying maintenance, the first step should be to speak with them about their obligation. If this has no effect, an attorney can be helpful in reminding them of their obligation and the potential legal issues if they do not honor the divorce decree. If changes need to be made but the two sides cannot agree on those changes, an attorney can also step in to help resolve the matter collaboratively through mediation without the cost of litigation. If litigation is unavoidable, the right lawyer can help provide effective legal guidance before the court to achieve the best possible solution.

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