In a divorce, a Colorado court may order the more well-to-do spouse to pay the dependent spouse alimony. This monetary support is also known as maintenance or spousal support. Whatever you call these payments, there are things you should know.
In the past, Colorado courts were granted wide discretion when awarding alimony, and consequently spousal maintenance amounts varied greatly among judges and jurisdictions. Beginning in January 1, 2014, however, that all changed. Now, every family law court in the state is required to obey new alimony legislation that makes uniform both the length of time for the payments and the amount of those payments.
Colorado has no guarantee of spousal support, even if a spouse may need it quite badly. It is also not assured that the lower wage earner will be granted payments. The court must first consider the financial situation of both individuals before alimony is ordered for the spouse making less money. Do not assume the husband will be the one paying spousal support, as such a judgment will hinge on which party has the higher income.
A $240,000 Income Limit
When deciding spousal support, a standardized method is used for all parties that earn $240,000 or below. Let’s get specific.
If a couple makes a combined monthly income of $240,000 or below, then the spousal maintenance formula to be followed is 40 percent of the higher income earner’s gross income, less 50 percent of the lower income earner’s income per month.
A couple that makes a combined monthly income over $240,000 are subject to the court’s discretion—particularly when considering factors such as the duration of the marriage and the couple’s financial circumstances. The abovementioned 40/50-percent split formula is also no longer deemed mandatory.
Duration of Marriage
The 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 the option to grant maintenance for marriages under three years in length. For marriages that have lasted longer than 20 years, the court may use its latitude to award payments for an indefinite term or for a specific term of years.
Property and Debt Distribution
The court has latitude to use community debt or marital property to decrease the term or amount of a spousal maintenance award. The judge in such a case may permit the paying spouse to shoulder more of the marital debt as a way of shortening the length of its term or the award amount. Here’s another example. A spouse receiving maintenance could be granted additional marital property with the idea of reducing the sum total of spousal maintenance to be paid.
Here’s another point to remember. Even though the rules contained in the new law are not presumptive and not required, the court has to review them before passing on them. If the court goes beyond or away from these guidelines, any spousal maintenance grant is deemed contrary to the new formula. In that case, the court must deliver oral or written explanations that show why the spousal maintenance award was disallowed or decided using other guidelines or an alternate formula.