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Can getting remarried impact your spousal maintenance?

Yes, it can, if the party receiving maintenance is the one who gets remarried.

Colorado Spousal Maintenance Basics

A District Court overseeing a divorce or separation in Colorado may, but is not required to, order spousal maintenance (also sometimes called spousal support or alimony) “in an amount and for a term that is fair and equitable to both parties and shall be made without regard to marital misconduct.” Couples may also agree on payment of spousal maintenance in a premarital or marital agreement, subject to limited review by the court.

How Remarriage Can Affect Spousal Maintenance in Colorado

Under Colorado law, absent a valid written agreement to the contrary, the remarriage of the party receiving spousal maintenance automatically terminates the other party’s obligation to pay it. No court order is necessary. The obligation to pay maintenance simply ends.

The automatic termination of spousal maintenance upon remarriage is what is known as a default rule. It applies in the absence of the parties having a different agreed-upon arrangement.

In other words, remarriage might not affect spousal maintenance if the parties addressed how it would be paid in a valid premarital or marital agreement that was enforced at the divorce or in a separation agreement negotiated at the time of the divorce. Colorado courts have held, for example, that spousal maintenance does not end upon the recipient’s remarriage if:

  • Their separation agreement obligates one party to pay spousal maintenance to the other and makes the duration of the payment obligation non-modifiable for any reason; or
  • Their separation agreement provides that spousal maintenance can only terminate upon the death of spouse receiving payment; or
  • Their separation agreement provided for maintenance to be paid in a lump sum which has already been paid.

What Constitutes Remarriage

What constitutes remarriage sufficient to terminate spousal maintenance? In Colorado, it is any relationship legally recognized as a marriage, which may include a civil union or common law marriage.

In the event of a dispute over whether a remarriage has occurred such that maintenance should terminate by operation of law, courts will generally examine the actual marital status of the recipient spouse. The dispute over whether there has or has not been a marriage arises most often when there is a claim that the new relationships of the recipient amounts to a common law marriage.

As a general proposition, the recipient living with another person (referred to as cohabitation), without more, does not qualify for automatic termination of spousal maintenance under Colorado law. Cohabitation may, however, serve as a basis for requesting modification of a spousal maintenance order on the basis of the recipient having changed financial circumstances, assuming the parties do not have an agreement to the contrary.

At any stage of a marital relationship, Colorado couples should give careful thought to the establishment, duration and termination of spousal maintenance. They can avoid the default rule of automatic termination of spousal maintenance on remarriage, but it takes a reasonably clear, written agreement to do so. An experienced Colorado divorce and family law attorney can help them explore and establish their rights.