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Spousal Maintenance in Colorado

What Factors Determine the Amount and for How Long Spousal Maintenance is Paid?

There is a great deal of confusion when it comes to spousal maintenance payments in divorce. Popular culture has led people to believe that spousal maintenance, sometimes called support or alimony, can be used as a punitive tool, but this is not the case. Colorado courts award maintenance payments based solely on need, so there is no consideration of fault when determining an award.

The duration and amount of maintenance is based on C.R.S. § 14-10-114(3)(b), which states,

“If the duration of the parties' marriage is at least three years and the parties' combined, annual adjusted gross income does not exceed the greater of two hundred forty thousand dollars or the uppermost limits of the schedule of basic child support obligations set forth in section 14-10-115, the court shall make additional oral or written findings concerning the duration of the marriage in whole months and the guideline amount and term of maintenance, calculated as follows...

(I) The amount of maintenance under the guidelines is equal to forty percent of the higher income party's monthly adjusted gross income less fifty percent of the lower income party's monthly adjusted gross income; except that, when added to the gross income of the recipient, shall not result in the recipient receiving in excess of forty percent of the parties' combined monthly adjusted gross income.

(II) (A) The term of maintenance under the guidelines, calculated in whole months, for marriages of at least three years but not more than twenty years, is set forth in the table contained in sub-subparagraph (B) of this subparagraph (II). When the duration of the parties' marriage exceeds twenty years, the court may award maintenance for a specified term of years or for an indefinite term, but the court shall not specify a maintenance term that is less than the maintenance term under the guidelines for a twenty-year marriage without making specific findings that support a reduced term of maintenance.”

For more information on how maintenance payments breakdown in percentage and terms based on the number of months married, refer to the Table of Guideline Maintenance Term in section (3)(b)(II)(B)of C.R.S. § 14-10-115.

In order to determine whether maintenance is appropriate, the court considers:

• The financial resources of each spouse, including potential future income;
• Each spouse’s role during the marriage;
• The distribution of marital property and whether it alleviates the need for maintenance;
• Each spouse’s income, employment, and employability, and whether additional education would be needed;
• The earning history of both spouses;
• Whether or not temporary maintenance was awarded when divorce proceeding began;
• The age and health of each spouse;
• Financial and other contributions of each spouse to the marriage;
• Whether an award of maintenance is warranted to preserve a claim of maintenance long-term; and
• Any other factors the court might consider relevant.

Regardless of your circumstances, it is important to work with an attorney from the beginning your divorce proceedings. You might not consider temporary spousal maintenance necessary, but its award can affect your long-term financial situation.

How Does the Court Determine if Spousal Maintenance is Ordered as Part of a Divorce?

Spousal maintenance, sometimes called spousal support or alimony, is often one of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce. Colorado has created a system in which spousal maintenance awards are simplified and are not intended to be punitive for either spouse in a divorce dispute.

Colorado courts only award maintenance if it is requested by one of the parties. Maintenance can be temporary and paid while divorce proceedings are pending, or the court can rule that maintenance must be paid as part of the conclusion of the divorce. In order for maintenance to be awarded, the court must determine that the spouse seeking maintenance is in need of financial assistance. Need for financial assistance includes lacking sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs and the inability to support themselves through employment. Spousal maintenance can also be awarded if the spouse is unable to work because he or she is the custodian of a child.

Though many have the misconception that fault in a divorce plays a role in the spousal maintenance award, this is inaccurate. In Colorado, spousal maintenance awards are based solely on financial circumstances, not on fault.

Maintenance is typically awarded in the form of monthly payments, though there are circumstances in which a lump sum is paid. The duration and amount varies dependent on the length of the marriage and the parties’ incomes. A schedule of the amount of maintenance was created in 2013 by the Colorado legislature and applies to cases filed on or after January 1, 2014.

To determine appropriate maintenance, the court considers the following:

(A) The amount of each party's gross income;
(B) The marital property apportioned to each party;
(C) The financial resources of each party, including but not limited to the actual or potential income from separate or marital property; and
(D) Reasonable financial need as established during the marriage.
(II) After making the initial findings described in subparagraph (I) of this paragraph (a), the court shall determine the amount and term of the maintenance award, if any, that is fair and equitable to both parties after considering:
(A) The guideline amount and term of maintenance set forth in paragraph (b) of this subsection (3), if applicable, based upon the duration of the marriage and the combined gross incomes of the parties;
(B) The factors relating to the amount and term of maintenance set forth in paragraph (c) of this subsection (3); and
(C) Whether the party seeking maintenance has met the requirement for a maintenance award pursuant to paragraph (d) of this subsection (3).

C.R.S. § 14-10-114(3)(a)(I).

The question of whether maintenance is appropriate, how much is necessary, and the duration of time it must be paid is a frequently litigated issue. If you have questions about spousal maintenance or need assistance protecting your rights in a divorce, contact Montgomery Little & Soran, PC at 303-773-8100.

 

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