Colorado law provides for spousal maintenance in dissolution cases. This was previously called alimony or spousal support. When considering whether an individual qualifies for maintenance, the court will look to three criteria:
- First, whether the party requesting maintenance is able to financially provide for his or her daily living expenses.
- Second, whether a party is disabled or for some other reason unable to support him or herself by means of gainful employment.
- Finally, the ability of one spouse to pay maintenance.
If the requesting party can show that they have a marriage-related need for support, that satisfies the first part of the test. This is usually done by means of a spreadsheet showing the requesting party’s monthly income and necessary living expenses. The payor’s monthly income and necessary living expenses are also typically put on a spreadsheet so the court can easily ascertain whether that party has sufficient income to pay maintenance.
Determining Spousal Maintenance in Colorado
Under Colorado law, since 2001, there has been a statutory formula for determining temporary maintenance. The amount of maintenance ordered cases is calculated using a mathematical formula. The statute applies to marriage of at least 36 months where the parties’ combined income is up to $360,000.00 per year. The court is allowed to deviate from this if it determines that the amount would be inequitable (unfair).The parties are also able to waive maintenance if they are agreeable. The formula is often referred to as the 60/40. The incomes of the parties are added together and the higher earning spouse is ordered to pay the lower earing spouse an amount that results in the total income being split 60% to higher earning spouse and 40% to the lower earning spouse.
The law in Colorado pertaining to maintenance is somewhat complex, despite the statutory provisions discussed above. Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-114 requires that parties to a marriage of over 36 months be provided with information regarding spousal maintenance. This information is titles “Spouse/Partner Maintenance Advisement.” This information is provided by the court and parties are required to sign acknowledging that they have been provided the information. The form goes on to list the factors that the court can consider when awarding spousal maintenance.
Modifying Spousal Maintenance
In most cases, spousal maintenance awards can be modified if circumstances change such that the amount or duration of the spousal maintenance award are no longer appropriate. For this reason, many times a party will request a minimal amount of support (as low as $1.00) so that if the parties’ financial positions change in the future, a motion to modify the amount and duration. Many times after the divorce is granted but before the term of the payment of spousal maintenance has ended, the paying party experiences a change in financial circumstances. This can be caused by layoffs, retirement, reduction in hours worked, or any other factor that may cause the payor to become unable to meet the spousal maintenance awarded by the court.
Another reason spousal maintenance can be modified is if the receiving party’s financial situation changes. Typically, this would be if the receiving party gets a substantial raise in pay and the payor wants to argue that they are no longer in need of the spousal maintenance awarded back when the divorce was granted.
Parties can agree to what is called “contractual spousal maintenance.” When this is done, it means that the spousal maintenance cannot be modified for any reason and the receiving party will continue receiving the payments even if the get married to someone else. Unless the parties agree on contractual spousal maintenance, spousal maintenance ends upon the death or remarriage of the receiving party by Colorado law.
The right to request maintenance is permanently lost if it is not awarded or reserved in your case. For this reason, it is very important that parties get sound legal advice during the divorce process, especially if they are considering agreeing to no spousal maintenance.
Contact Our Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in Colorado Springs
If you are considering divorce or have been served with divorce papers, and you think maintenance might be an issue in your case, you should consult an attorney. The experienced family law attorneys at Gasper Law Group will be happy to discuss the particulars of your case and explore your options. Contact us today to discuss your case.