Understanding Spousal Maintenance

Financial stability is a major concern of many people going through divorce. Shared life and finances may have allowed one spouse to stay at home to raise children, making the prospect of becoming financially self-sufficient very daunting. Circumstances may actually make some individuals unable to work and financially support themselves.

To ensure that divorce does not leave one party suffering undue financial hardship, Colorado Revised Statutes define the terms and means by which to calculate spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony).

The Purpose of Spousal Maintenance

Individuals going through a divorce, particularly those who feel wronged by the other party, often see spousal maintenance as a way to make the other party pay—literally. Some people feel entitled to a large payment because the failure of the marriage is other person’s fault. However, because Colorado is a no-fault state, spousal maintenance is not a punitive payment.

Spousal maintenance is always analyzed in terms of the needs of the party requesting support to be weighed against the ability to pay of the party being requested to pay support.

The State of Colorado views spousal maintenance as a rehabilitative measure—a means to provide adequate financial resources to the lower income-earning party for a time sufficient to allow him/her to get the education, job training and employment necessary to be financially independent. That means that spousal maintenance is calculated based on need, not on a perception of entitlement. And in most cases, spousal maintenance does end at some point.

Temporary Spousal Maintenance

An individual may request temporary spousal maintenance—financial support during the divorce process. For couples whose combined annual gross income is less than $75,000, the Court usually determines temporary spousal maintenance with the formula:

40% of the higher income earner’s monthly adjusted gross income

-50% of the lower income earner’s monthly adjusted gross income

(Monthly adjusted gross income subtracts pre-existing spousal maintenance payments and child support payments for a child outside of the marriage.)

So, if a man makes an annual salary of $60,000 and a woman makes an annual salary of $35,000 and neither have previous spouses or children outside of their marriage, the woman may be eligible for temporary spousal support and expect monthly payments of approximately $540.

An individual in a couple who makes a combined annual gross income is more than $75,000 may be eligible for temporary spousal support. The amount is determined by the Court.

Permanent Spousal Maintenance

There is no specific formula applied to determine permanent spousal maintenance. In some cases, the amount of temporary spousal maintenance may remain unchanged. However, the Court may adjust the payment amount and determine the length of time one spouse may collect maintenance based on a number of factors:

  • The length of the marriage (typically, an individual may receive one year of spousal maintenance for every three years of marriage)
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The amount of property each party receives as a result of the divorce settlement
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the party seeking support
  • The time it may take the party seeking support to receive the education/job training necessary to secure suitable employment
  • The financial capability of the party who will be paying spousal maintenance

Other circumstances can complicate spousal maintenance determinations—having a child with special needs, for instance. The change of financial circumstances, as in the case of new employment or a remarriage, may warrant submitting a motion to adjust or terminate spousal maintenance.

The Impact of Spousal Maintenance

Colorado law about spousal maintenance is changing. Beginning in January 2014, a formula may be used to determine the amount and length of spousal maintenance for those whose joint annual income falls under $230,000. Because this is a new law, little is known about how a judge will interpret this area of the law.

Nevertheless, spousal maintenance has a weighty impact on both party’s financial stability, so it is important that the Court have accurate information on which to base calculations for temporary maintenance and determinations for permanent maintenance. To make sure that all financial assets are fully disclosed and that your financial interests are protected, it is in your best interest to get an experienced Colorado family law attorney.

Gordon N. Shayne has over 30 years of legal experience, more than a decade of which has been solely focused on the practice of family law in Colorado. He understands the statutes that apply to divorce and spousal maintenance cases and gives every client the personal attention they deserve. To find out more about spousal maintenance, please contact the Law Office of 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.

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