The Legal Forecast for 2014
In 2014, two major developments will take place in Colorado. First (and most famously), Colorado will legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Second, the State will enact new guidelines pertaining spousal maintenance. Both laws have major consequences for family legal matters, especially divorce.
Spousal Maintenance Modifications
Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is the court-ordered financial support of a spouse after divorce or separation. Traditionally, it is determined by a spouse’s earning capacity, the presence of small children, and other factors. It is designed to provide financial protection for divorcing individuals.
Prior to the passage of the new law, spousal maintenance was entirely up to the discretion of the judge. This caused discrepancies in alimony cases, which in turn prompted the reform.
As of January 1, 2014, judges will be allowed to use a new formula to determine amounts of spousal maintenance. Designed to create alimony settlements that are more fair to both parties, the formula first examines gross income, property holdings, and financial need of each party.
After getting baseline financial data, judges can use the formula to find a fair compromise by deducting 50% of the income of the lower earner from 40% of the income of the higher earner. The formula can be applied to marriages of three to twenty years in length and combined income cannot exceed $240,000.
While the new guidelines begin on January 1st, judges may still consider non-income-based factors (marital details, children, etc.) to determine a fair alimony settlement. Divorcing parties should always elect to have experienced legal counsel by their side to aid in negotiating fair alimony.
Marijuana Laws and Family Law
In 2013, Colorado became one of the first states to legalize marijuana. While it is still a federal offense, the possession and consumption of marijuana can no longer be criminally punished on a state level.
The legal consumption of marijuana is modeled after alcohol consumption, but because there is no precedent, there are clearly defined guidelines yet. But, because it is treated like a controlled substance, it can affect the outcome and direction of a whole variety of family law cases.
For instance, a custody battle can quickly turn ugly if a spouse can point to marijuana use, it can reflect poorly on parenting. Since it is still a federal offense, it can be viewed as reckless and dangerous.
But, until a precedent is set, it is solely up to the discretion of the judge. There are no guarantees.
A family law lawyer for over 24 years, Gordon N. Wood can help you navigate the changes in Colorado state law with clarity and experienced insight. He has followed the developments of the spousal maintenance guidelines and marijuana laws closely and can provide effective legal advice to clients who may be affected by these developments.
If you need a family law attorney right now, you will need to know how the recent changes in Colorado state law will affect you. Contact us today to set up your free consultation with Gordon N. Shayne.
Disclaimer: The blogs posted on ShayneLaw.com are offered for informational purposes only. These blogs are not a solicitation for legal business and should not be construed as providing any legal advice or legal opinions as to any specific fact or circumstance. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of an appropriate legal professional. To obtain legal advice or opinions about Colorado family law, personally consult with a licensed Colorado attorney.