Maintenance, Spousal Support or Alimony
Maintenance, Spousal Support, or Alimony, is the same thing: one spouse paying support to the other during or after a divorce. In Colorado, the proper term is “Maintenance” or “Spousal Support.” Temporary Maintenance is designed to help a lower-earning spouse, or a spouse who's been out of the workforce while raising children or taking care of the household. It is Temporary because it terminates at the end of the dissolution process. Permanent Maintenance begins with the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, and lasts for a period of time depending on many factors.
In general, maintenance can be awarded if a spouse lacks sufficient property, including marital property, to provide for her reasonable needs and expenses, and is unable to support themselves through appropriate employment. There are designated factors that the court must consider in determining whether or not to order maintenance.
Generally courts usually consider the following when determining maintenance: length of the marriage; age and health of the parties; division of property; education level of each party at the time of the marriage and at the time the action is commenced; earning capacity of the parties; the likelihood that the party seeking alimony/maintenance can become self-supporting; the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage and the time needed to achieve this goal; tax consequences; pre-marital and post-marital agreements; contribution of one party to the education, training to the other; the earning capacity of each party; and any other relevant factors.
Once a court determines that a party is entitled to alimony, the court then determines how much the person should receive per month and how long he or she should receive it.
Rehabilitative maintenance is especially applicable to situations where one spouse stayed home to raise children while the other developed a career. Rehabilitative maintenance is also appropriate in cases where a spouse needs assistance with job training or college expenses so they may eventually return to the job force or enter a new career after the divorce for the purpose of becoming financially independent.
Under current Colorado law there is a presumed level of temporary maintenance or alimony in Colorado, in cases where a couple’s combined gross annual income is equal to or less than $75,000. If you and your spouse’s gross yearly incomes added together equal $75,000 per year or less, then it is likely that the Colorado family law magistrate will apply the mandatory formula and award maintenance equal to 40% of the higher income earner’s gross monthly income minus 50% of the lower income earner’s gross monthly income on a temporary basis.
Under this scenario, this Colorado alimony formula applies regardless of the length of the marriage. Also, C.R.S. 14-10- 114(4) requires that maintenance be determined “without regard to marital misconduct.” In-other-words, it does not matter if a spouse committed adultery or other moral or wrongdoing.
For Example: (Assuming no children) Joe earns $3,500 per month, and Mary earns $2000 per month. In this case, the presumptive temporary maintenance payment would be $400 ($1400 – $1000), the duration which would be until the final orders hearing or agreement of the parties.
Where the combined gross annual incomes exceed $75,000, this formula does not automatically apply. Instead, the courts consider various factors.
Previously, Colorado courts had discretion when considering permanent maintenance, as a consequence, spousal maintenance awards varied greatly among judges and jurisdictions. New legislation changed all that. Effective January 1, 2014, all family law courts in the state of Colorado have been required to follow new maintenance guidelines that standardizes both the duration and amount of alimony awarded. However, a court must first review the financial circumstances of both parties before deciding to award alimony to the lesser earning spouse. The new standard applies to all parties that meet an earnings limit of $240,000 or below. If a couple makes a combined monthly income of $240,000 or below, then the spousal maintenance formula is 40 percent of the higher income earner’s gross income, less 50 percent of the lower income earner’s income per month. However, other a court can consider other factors depending upon the circumstance. If the combined income is greater than $240,000.00, courts have more discretion especially with longer duration marriages.
The new law also provides guidelines according to the duration of the marriage. The term of maintenance is calculated in whole months of a minimum of three years to up to 20 years. For example, the guideline duration is 31 percent of the length of the marriage for three years of marriage. The court is given discretion to award maintenance for marriages under three years in length. For marriages exceeding 20 years, the court may use its discretion to award maintenance for an indefinite term or for a specific term of years.”