Divorce is a traumatic experience. You go through extensive negotiations or to court and get a financial settlement that you believe will work. But sometimes things don't go according to plan.
If you receive money in the form of spousal maintenance - which is what Colorado calls alimony - or child support, the best scenario is to work toward being able to live without it, at least for a while. This approach will help you weather a lot of the problems that can come up. You may think that if you could get by without those payments, you wouldn't have received them in the first place. But start putting away a little in savings from those payments every month, if you can.
A common problem is late payment. If they're more than a month late, that's probably worth going to court. The court can enforce payments through direct wage or bank access.
If it's minor, like a few days or a week late, it might not be worth your while financially to press the point. It's more productive to have enough in savings to get by until the payment comes. This is where picking your battles can pay off. If it's just going to annoy your ex to complain about late payments, it might make it more difficult to get along in other areas, like parenting.
Child support can be changed when there is a substantial and ongoing change in the financial circumstances of the parents or of the parenting arrangement. A substantial change is 10 percent or more. So if you were making $3,000 a month and now you're making $3,500 a month, that's a substantial change and will impact child support. Or if your children were spending half their time with you and half with your ex, but now they live with you all the time, that's a substantial change. It's ongoing if it lasts awhile - say, six months or more. You and your co-parent can calculate the change online (www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_ List.cfm?Form_Type_ID=94) and submit it to the court.
What if you lose your job and you're responsible for spousal maintenance or child support? If your divorce allowed for changes in spousal maintenance and you are out of work awhile, it probably makes sense to reopen the issue. If you can negotiate a change, you and your ex can file it with the court. There are some good mediators who will help. If it's non-modifiable, you probably have to take the money from savings to pay it.
As with anything in life, we're well served to plan and move forward. But things don't always go as planned, so be ready to be flexible when circumstances change.
Linda Leitz is a CFP in Colorado Springs. Email email@example.com.