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In re Young - Spousal Maintenance Modifications

The appellate court in In re Young determined that a trial court does not have to make specific factual findings on all of the spousal maintenance factors in a modification as is required in an initial spousal maintenance award.

In re Young - Spousal Maintenance Modifications

In this case Husband agreed to pay Wife $20,000 per month in spousal maintenance. They agreed that maintenance would be modifiable as to amount but not term. Husband requested a modification based on his claim of a drop in income and an inability to continue to be able to pay the prior level of maintenance. The trial court denied his request finding that Husband had failed to establish the legal standard of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances making the original award unfair. The court found that he had non-employment income available as well as employment income.

Initial Awards

The goal of spousal maintenance is to allow the parties to maintain the same lifestyle to the extent possible until the lower wage earner can become more self-supporting through education or employment. Most commonly spousal maintenance is temporary, however in marriages of 30 years duration or longer, it can be permanent. Spouses can either reach a spousal maintenance AKA alimony agreement, or the court can decide. Although there are spousal maintenance guidelines, maintenance awards are discretionary by courts, Compare to child support wherein the guidelines are presumptive rather than advisory. The two main factors in spousal maintenance awards are the incomes of the parties and the length of the marriage.

In an initial award of spousal maintenance a court must make findings regarding:

  • The amount of the parties incomes
  • Marital property awarded to each party
  • Each spouse’s financial resources
  • Financial need
  • Tax consequences

However, courts have more discretion for modifications and do not have to make the same detailed findings. Courts however, do not want parties to file for spousal maintenance modifications each time that income changes so the burden of proof is heavy. It is more difficult to modify spousal maintenance than child support.

In this case Wife alleged that Husband was voluntarily underemployed. Voluntary underemployment requires two factors (1) that a person is shirking a support requirement by (2) voluntarily foregoing higher paying employment. The trial court’s decision that Husband only worked 20 hours a week was found not to be supported in the record as the trial court had not attributed any credit to him for remote work. In this case the appellate court also found that the trial court had not explained how Husband’s lower salary was not a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.

Turning Change Into Opportunity in Colorado Springs

A knowledgeable and experienced spousal maintenance modification attorney can guide you through Colorado Springs divorce and family law matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating. This allows you to focus on to a better future. Divorce and family law matters are difficult to navigate alone.

Sabra Janko from Janko Family Law Solutions is a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who protects your best interests and ensures that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. Contact us at 719-344-5523 for a free 30-minute informational consultation or complete our online form.

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