When two spouses divorce after a significant number of years together in marriage, it may leave one spouse at a considerable disadvantage. For instance, if one spouse spent the majority of time in the marriage focusing on raising children and keeping the home, they may not have had adequate time to focus on furthering their education and career.
In these cases, the disadvantaged spouse may ask for spousal maintenance—also called spousal support or alimony. Whenever a judge awards an amount of spousal maintenance, the amount is open to future modifications if one party can show a significant and permanent change in circumstances that makes the initial agreement or order unfair. But when a spousal maintenance order is non-modifiable, the courts do not have the authority to modify or make changes to the order regardless of changes in circumstance.
Understanding Modifiable vs Non-Modifiable Spousal Maintenance
Before a Colorado divorce, spouses must address the matter of spousal support and whether or not their order should be modifiable or non-modifiable. Most spousal support orders are modifiable, meaning that either party may file at any time to make changes to the amount and/or frequency of payments based on changes in circumstances for either the payer or payee. Many divorcing couples consider this a good option since it remains open to change in the event of changing circumstances.
Non-modifiable spousal support is contractual and binding. A judge cannot order a change in the amount regardless of changes in circumstances by either party. Instead, the courts can only uphold and enforce the contract and lack jurisdiction to authorize any changes. This means a payee cannot petition for an increase even if they lose a job or other source of income or have unforeseen expenses. It also means the paying spouse is responsible for keeping up the payments even if they become unemployed or disabled or they may face legal consequences.
Who Can Order Non-Modifiable Spousal Support?
In Colorado divorces, a judge cannot order non-modifiable spousal support. This is a contractual agreement made between both parties in a divorce. A judge can only award non-modifiable spousal support when both parties in the divorce come to an agreement on the terms and forfeit their option to petition for modification in the future.
Pros and Cons of Non-Modifiable Spousal Support
When choosing between a standard, modifiable agreement for spousal support and a non-modifiable order for spousal maintenance, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Some benefits of non-modifiable orders include:
- The amount doesn’t change or fluctuate with changes in circumstances so it provides stability
- It prevents the inconvenience and expense of further court appearances and legal hassles
- It prevents a receiving spouse from taking the paying spouse back to court every time they get a raise or a higher-paying job
- It provides a tax advantage
On the other hand, there are two negative factors to carefully consider:
- Neither party can make changes even if circumstances change significantly or even drastically
- In Colorado, an ex-spouse receiving non-modifiable spousal maintenance continues to receive it even when living with and sharing income with a partner as long as they don’t remarry
Always speak to your Denver divorce attorney about the pros and cons of non-modifiable spousal support in your unique case.
Is Non-Modifiable Spousal Maintenance Forever?
A typical contract for non-modifiable spousal support specifies that the maintenance terminates when the receiving spouse remarries or upon the death of either spouse. In either case, the support order automatically ends without requiring a court order or appearance in court.
It’s important to carefully consider all of the ramifications of both modifiable and non-modifiable spousal maintenance orders before making the decision that best suits your needs.