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Modification of Maintenance (Alimony) in Colorado

Lesson Summary. If a court has earlier ordered that maintenance be paid, then it retains the jurisdiction to modify the order. An order can be modified if the court finds that it is unfair and the changed circumstances are substantial and continuing. The parties can prevent a court from modifying maintenance, if their separation agreement is specific as to the unmodifiable provisions.

Monthly maintenance may be modified by a Colorado court whenever it has previously ordered maintenance. Generally maintenance cannot be raised for the first time after the decree.

The standard of review in a motion to modify maintenance is the same fairness (reasonable and just) standard which should have been applied initially. CRS §14-10-122.

Any proposed modification must be based on a showing of changed circumstances which are substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the earlier order unfair. Generally the changed circumstances will be a change in the income of the parties or the remarriage of the recipient. If the recipient lives with another person (cohabitation), this circumstance alone will not justify any modification (cohabitation is not remarriage.)

Unless otherwise provided in the order, the obligation to pay maintenance terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party who received maintenance.

Maintenance could continue after the death of the obligor and the court could order life insurance be carried to protect the recipient after the death of the payor. But, generally not.

Any change in maintenance is effective as of the date of the filing of the motion to modify, unless the court finds that it would cause undue hardship or substantial injustice.

If the parties had earlier agreed to specific maintenance terms, such an agreement may be modifiable or it could be fixed and unmodifiable, depending on the terms of the agreement. If the agreement calls for a fixed amount of maintenance, then a court may not later change it. However, any language in an agreement which attempts to limit or prevent a court from later modifying maintenance must be specific and unequivocal.

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