How Long Do You Have to be Married to Get Alimony in Colorado?

Alimony, or “spousal maintenance” in legal terms, is meant to support a former spouse who needs financial help after a divorce. Either spouse may seek alimony during the divorce proceeding. However, the duration of the spouse’s marriage may affect their eligibility for alimony, as well as the resulting alimony award. Here’s an overview of Colorado’s alimony guidelines in relation to the length of the marriage.

Is there a minimum length of marriage for alimony?

How Long Do You Have to be Married to Get Alimony in Colorado?Colorado law has “advisory guidelines” that judges strongly consider when determining alimony qualification, amount, and duration. These guidelines apply only to marriages lasting between three to 20 years. Hence some people believe that you have to be married at least three years to get alimony in Colorado.

However, there isn’t a hard-and-fast minimum length of marriage for a Colorado judge to grant alimony.

A spouse who’s been married for less than three years (or even for less than a year) may still seek alimony, although they would need a more compelling reason to convince the judge to grant them the maintenance they’re requesting. In many of these cases, that reason involves a significant sacrifice on the part of the requesting spouse – for instance, if they had to quit their job to raise their child or move across the country for the family’s sake.

If you have been married for a short time but believe you deserve maintenance, you should consult with an experienced alimony lawyer.

Will the length of the marriage affect the alimony award?

Yes. In Colorado, the length of the marriage is a factor in determining alimony duration. There are complex formulas in Colorado’s advisory guidelines, but to give you an idea, here are sample alimony awards based on length of marriage:

  • Marriage of three years – alimony for 11 months (31% of marriage duration)
  • Marriage of five years – alimony for 21 months (35% of marriage duration)
  • Marriage of 10 years – alimony for 54 months (45% of marriage duration)
  • Marriage of 15 years – alimony for 90 months (50% of marriage duration)
  • Marriage of 20 years – alimony for 120 months (50% of marriage duration).

For marriages lasting over 20 years, the judge will have the discretion to decide on the appropriate amount and duration of alimony. In some cases, the court grants lifetime alimony, such as for disabled or elderly ex-spouses.

Can you negotiate the amount or duration of alimony?

The above guidelines apply when the court has to decide on alimony. Court-determined alimony is called “statutory maintenance.” However, a divorcing couple does not necessarily have to go to court to settle the alimony issue. The spouses can negotiate among themselves to create an alimony agreement called “contractual maintenance.” They can then have the court approve this agreement into an enforceable court order.

If a judicial officer issues a maintenance order as the result of a hearing, then such maintenance order might be subject to modification down the road if there is a “substantial and continuing” change in circumstances among the ex-spouses. An example of a substantial and continuing change might be if the alimony payor lost their ability to earn or if the alimony recipient is now earning an income that makes the spousal support excessive- this scenario is subject to scrutiny and review.

On the other hand, contractual maintenance can be non-modifiable. If you are negotiating this agreement with your ex-spouse, you’ll want a lawyer by your side to ensure that the contract is fair for the long term. If you enter into a contract for maintenance with your ex-spouse and you do not make it “non-modifiable”, then you are subject to the same standard as noted above. However, if you make maintenance “non-modifiable” then you may not seek judicial intervention in the future to modify your agreed upon maintenance award. 

Call an Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Colorado

If you have concerns in claiming alimony or paying it, reach out to Goldman Law. Our lawyers are among the most trusted divorce attorneys in Denver, CO, and surrounding cities. We have 25+ years of combined experience and have received top ratings from various legal bodies. We can help you secure your rights and entitlements following divorce or separation.

Call Goldman Law today at (303) 656-9529 to schedule a consultation.