When couples divorce in Colorado, the court may order the high-earning spouse to pay alimony to the the financially-dependent spouse. When the spouse receiving alimony (the supported spouse) remarries—or is no longer financially dependent—the paying spouse may want to end alimony payments.
This article will explain how a supported spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation with another person affects alimony in Colorado.
Alimony, also referred to as maintenance in Colorado, is money paid by one spouse to the other during and/or after a divorce or legal separation. Colorado courts may grant alimony based on one spouse's financial need and the other spouse's ability to pay.
There are several types of alimony. Courts in Colorado may grant alimony as a lump sum (to be paid all at once), as a transfer of property, or as periodic alimony, which usually takes the form of monthly payments from one spouse to the other. Periodic alimony may last for a specific period of time or until a certain event happens, such as death or remarriage of the supported spouse.
In Colorado, periodic alimony ends automatically when the supported spouse gets remarried or enters into a civil union, unless the couple signed an agreement stating otherwise. In the absence of such a written agreement, the paying spouse can simply stop making payments on the date of the supported spouse’s marriage or registration, without having to return to court.
Remarriage (or a civil union) can terminate alimony only if it consists of periodic payments (for example, monthly or annual payments). Remarriage has no effect on the paying spouse’s obligation to pay lump-sum alimony or transfer property.
In some situations, a divorcing couple will sign an agreement stating that alimony can’t be modified or terminated, even if the supported spouse gets remarried. In these cases, alimony won’t end upon remarriage.
The court can modify periodic alimony if there is a substantial change in circumstances. The most common change that may warrant a modification of alimony is either an increase in the supported spouse's income or a decrease in the supported spouse’s needs.
If you want to modify or terminate alimony payments based on your former spouse’s changed circumstances, you should first try to come to an agreement with your ex. If you and your ex can’t agree to change or end alimony, you can file a motion to modify or terminate support. You will need to be prepared to show the court how your ex-spouse’s changed financial circumstances warrant a reduction or termination of alimony payments.
Colorado law states that the supported spouse’s cohabitation (living with a partner in a romantic relationship) is not, by itself, reason enough to modify or end alimony. If a paying spouse wants to end alimony payments because the supported spouse is living with another person, he or she will need to show:
As an example, if a supported spouse is living rent-free or otherwise having expenses paid for by the new live-in partner, the court may consider those reduced expenses a substantial change in circumstances that justify lowering or ending alimony payments.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact a Colorado family law attorney for help.