In many marriages, one spouse focuses on parenting and homemaking while their partner works. After these marriages end, some spouses may find themselves worried about how they will pay the bills on a single income while others may be bitter about having to support their ex with alimony payments. Alimony disputes can certainly be stressful and confusing, but it can help streamline the process to have a thorough understanding of Colorado’s spousal support laws.
In this article, we will explain the relevant laws and what you can expect during the court process and beyond. Colorado uses a statutory formula that is designed to make payments predictable and uniform, but if any issues arise it is important to consult with an experienced Colorado family law attorney who can help navigate the family courts and negotiate for your best interests.
Alimony Attorney in Colorado Springs, CO
Retaining an experienced family law attorney can be essential in attaining a favorable outcome if you are going through an alimony dispute. Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC is a Colorado Springs-based law firm serving El Paso County, Denver County, and Arapahoe County with years of experience handling a variety of family law issues including divorce, annulment, legal separation, child support, alimony, and restraining orders.
We understand that this is a difficult time and we can assist you every step of the way whatever the issues you may be facing as your marriage is ending. The sooner you begin fighting for your interests the better – take advantage of our consultation by calling (719) 328-1616 today. First thirty minutes are free.
Overview of Spousal Support Law in Colorado
- What is Spousal Support?
- Types of Alimony/Spousal Support
- Am I Eligible for Spousal Support in Colorado?
- How is Spousal Support Calculated in Colorado?
- Additional Resources for Spousal Support
What is Spousal Support?
Though commonly known as alimony, spousal support in Colorado is legally known as “maintenance.” Maintenance is money owed for the spouse him or herself to live on, in contrast to child support, which is intended to contribute to the costs of raising a child. After a marriage is dissolved through divorce, legal separation, or annulment, courts will make a determination whether a spouse needs financial support for themselves apart from the distinct issue of child support payments for the children.
The logic behind maintenance is that in many marriages duties are divided between spouses with one spouse being the primary earner and the other the primary caregiver. Because this division of responsibilities places the primary parent at a disadvantage in advancing their career, monetary support may be justified to offset the differences in future income once a marriage is dissolved.
Types of Alimony/Spousal Support
Several different types of maintenance or spousal support are available in Colorado: reimbursement, temporary, permanent, and rehabilitative.
Temporary support, or pendente lite (“during litigation”) support, is financial support to a spouse while the divorce process is pending. If one spouse was the primary breadwinner during the marriage, the other spouse can seek support on a temporary basis until the marriage is officially dissolved.
After the divorce, the most common type is rehabilitative support. This type of support happens when the spouse with more income supports the spouse with less while the lower-income spouse furthers their career to eventually become self-sufficient. This option is typical for marriages in which one spouse didn’t work or only worked part-time in order to raise children. Rehabilitative support is limited in duration, allowing the supported spouse time to become independent.
Reimbursement support is used when one spouse put the other through school or job training while married. The rationale is that while both spouses would benefit from this investment if the couple stayed married, the spouse who paid initially will no longer benefit now that they are separated. In such cases a judge might determine that it is in the interest of fairness for the spouse to be paid back for the cost of education.
In rare cases, maintenance payments can be ordered on a permanent basis if one spouse is unable to achieve financial independence as the result of disability, serious illness, or advancing age. Usually, however, courts will set a fixed date for spousal maintenance to end.
Am I Eligible for Spousal Support in Colorado?
Typically courts will only consider awarding payments when the marriage lasted at least three years. Spouses are legally eligible for maintenance regardless of the gender of the spouse. Courts only focus on whether the spouse requesting support can show a need for it and on whether the other spouse can afford to make the payments.
Because women traditionally fulfill the caregiver role in many marriages, ex-wives tend to receive spousal support more often than ex-husbands, but there is no rule preventing men from getting alimony. Support payments are also considered “without regard to marital misconduct,” meaning, for example, that the award amount will not be affected even if your spouse cheated on you.
How is Spousal Support Calculated in Colorado?
The formula used for calculating the amount of payments is found in the “advisory guidelines” codified in Sec. 14-10-114 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. In most cases, the monthly amount of the award will be 40% of the higher-income party’s monthly adjusted gross income minus 50% of the lower earner’s monthly adjusted gross income. For a couple with incomes of $10,000 and $4,000, for example, the award would be $4,000 – $2,000 = $2,000.
The guidelines are non-binding and spouses can request a “deviation,” or change to the formula, if they think the amount is unfair – either too high or too low. For a deviation to be considered, a spouse must be able to offer specific reasons why a different amount other than the amount recommended by the formula would be more appropriate.
C.R.S. Sec. 14-10-114 also provides a table for calculating the duration of the payments. Starting at 36 months, the duration is 31% of the length of the marriage and increases 1.17% for each additional month. For example, for a marriage lasting four years, the recommended duration is 16 months of support payments.
Payments can be modified or terminated if one spouse can show that a change of circumstances makes the current payment scheme unreasonable. A modification for increased amount or duration might be requested by the supported spouse because of a sudden medical emergency, for example. A downward modification might be requested by the supporting spouse for an unforeseen layoff or a disability that prevents them from working. Payments can also be terminated altogether in certain situations, such as if a party dies or gets remarried.
Additional Resources for Spousal Support
Colorado Revised Statutes, Colorado General Assembly – The Colorado Revised Statutes contain the official laws adopted by the Colorado legislature. Follow the link to find a searchable database of all the laws in the state, including the system for determining spousal support payments. Seeing the law in black-and-white can give you a better understanding of exactly what standards family courts use.
Maintenance & Alimony, Colorado Judicial Branch – Visit this site for several helpful links. Here you can find copies of forms used to modify or terminate maintenance payments. The site also includes a calculator that can be used to find the presumed payment amount for any income and length of marriage.
El Paso County, CO Spousal Support Attorney
Handling spousal support matters can be complex. With years of experience handling all kinds of family law issues, Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC is in an ideal position to vigorously pursue your best interests and guide you through a difficult time. We are headquartered in Colorado Springs and have assisted clients across El Paso County, Denver County, and Arapahoe County with a wide variety of divorce-related issues.
Whether you are seeking to increase the payments you receive, limit the amount you have to pay, or hold an ex-spouse accountable for not paying what they owe, Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC can help. Call (719) 328-1616 today for a consultation, the first half hour is free.