Spousal maintenance, also referred to as alimony or spousal support, is the money paid to a spouse during and after a divorce when the other spouse is not able to pay for his or her own reasonable needs. This payment can be made in the form of a lump sum, though it is commonly paid in periodic installments.
Spousal support is awarded to a spouse when a spouse is the primary caretaker of a child, when a spouse is unable to make a sufficient living, and when a spouse lacks the funds or assets to support themselves.
Temporary and Long-Term Maintenance
There are two types of spousal maintenance in Colorado: temporary maintenance and long-term maintenance. For parties with a combined adjusted gross income lower than $75,000 per year, the formula for temporary maintenance is 40% of the monthly income of the higher earner’s less 50% of the monthly income of the lower earner.
Prior to the formula being applied, the court will first subtract from the income of each spouse any pre-existing spousal maintenance payments made by either spouse, and any child support payments made by either spouse for children outside the present marriage. This formula applies to the temporary orders stage of the divorce proceedings, and does not affect the amount of maintenance awarded at the permanent orders hearing.
For long-term maintenance, judges also use a formula of 40% of the higher earner’s monthly income less 50% of the monthly income of the lower earner. The duration of the maintenance award depends on the length of the marriage, and may range from one-third to one-half of the length of the marriage. This form of maintenance is only awarded at the permanent orders hearing of marriages that lasted three years or more. Generally, the longer the duration of the marriage, the longer maintenance payments continue.
The state of Colorado does not automatically offer a spouse the right to long-term alimony in every case, as the court will first examine the circumstances of the parties to determine if either spouse qualifies. Ultimately, it is up to the judge to make any final decisions on maintenance, and he or she may opt to deviate from the suggested maintenance award based on the given formula. A judge typically takes into account factors such as financial needs, financial resources, marital properties, and the separate incomes of the spouses. A knowledgeable family law attorney can help you with this.
Assessing a Spouse’s Contribution
When it comes to spousal maintenance, some situations can make it difficult to value or assess the contributions of a spouse. Examples of these instances are when one spouse supports the family as a homemaker or to raise the children. His or her earning ability, therefore, will be different if he or she spent the last few years gainfully employed instead of remaining at home. In such scenarios, the court must then determine the earning potential of the supported spouse both now and in the future.
Modification or Termination
A court may modify periodic payments based on a material change in circumstances, unless the couple presents a written agreement that does not seek any changes to the maintenance payments. Maintenance typically terminates upon remarriage of the recipient.