How does alimony work in Colorado? Alimony in Colorado is referred to as spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is meant to provide a person going through a divorce or legal separation with the economic ability to have bills and other kinds of reasonable expenses paid for by the other spouse who has the ability to pay. It’s a balancing of need by the party who’s requesting maintenance, that’s balanced against the ability to pay. Need versus ability to pay. That’s one of the first things a court has to determine.
One of the features of Colorado’s law on alimony, or spousal maintenance, is that for both temporary orders and final orders, judges can now refer to a set of guidelines that became effective on January 1st, 2014. In those guidelines, the court can look up the length of the marriage and determine what will be the duration of spousal maintenance. As an example, in a 20-year marriage, you can expect that the guidelines will say that the length of time that one of the parties may have to pay spousal maintenance will be 50% of the length of the marriage, or 10 years.
When you’re figuring out what the amount of spousal maintenance is, there is a formula that the court can look at. It is not an automatic formula, but it’s a formula that most of the judges are going to apply when they’re looking at disputes regarding spousal support. The spousal support statute requires the parties to make full disclosure of all of their incomes that is from whatever sources. Then the court can calculate in the absence of an agreement. I also can tell you that a lot of times parties agree to depart from the guidelines. That is, they reach an agreement informally on their own and they spell it out in a separation agreement. That happens with frequency as well.
There’s a lot of different ways to address the alimony problem. Just keep in mind that courts have total discretion according to the law in imposing whatever kind of maintenance of spousal maintenance the court feels is appropriate. If parties wish, as they do in some circumstances, to permanently waive spousal maintenance and they do so with the knowledge of what the law says, they have to do that in writing.