Alimony / Spousal Maintenance
Alimony & Spousal Maintenance Information in Denver Colorado | Temporary & Permanent
In Colorado, neither spouse has an automatic right to maintenance. The court may award maintenance only if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to meet their reasonable needs and, in addition, is either unable to support themselves through appropriate employment or should not be required to seek employment because of child care responsibilities.
In Colorado, if maintenance is awarded, the amount and duration will be based on:
- The length of the marriage,
- The age and health (mental and physical) of both parties,
- The standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the marriage,
- The respective earning capacity of each party, and
- How the marital property was allocated.
One of the threshold issues in determining whether maintenance is appropriate is whether the spouse seeking maintenance can obtain and maintain employment to support themselves and their children. Therefore, if you are claiming maintenance, it is extremely important to determine your actual employability in this employment market. Even if you are highly educated and previously had a great job, you might find it nearly impossible to obtain and maintain appropriate employment if you left the labor market six years ago to stay home and raise your children. In this case, maintenance might be very appropriate.
Once it is determined that you are entitled to maintenance, the next issue is the amount and duration. The amount will be determined by your ability to obtain and maintain some type of employment and meet your reasonable needs. The duration, however, can be based on a number of factors. If you have young children, maintenance might continue until all of the children are in school full time. Or, if you need additional education or training to obtain employment, maintenance might be awarded for the time necessary to get additional education and training. If you have health problems that prevent you from working and you were involved in a long-term marriage, you might be entitled to maintenance for life.
In addition, once maintenance is awarded by the court, it can be modified. Therefore, if either party has undergone a change in circumstances, one of them can request the court to modify the maintenance award.
Each maintenance case is different. Therefore, it is extremely important to look at all factors that the court will consider in determining whether maintenance might be awarded in a particular case. There is no easy or predictable formula when it comes to maintenance.
In the past, the terms “spousal maintenance” and “spousal support” were generally referred to as alimony. According to Colorado statute, “spousal maintenance” is the more accurate term because it more clearly distinguishes the difference between support of a spouse and support of a child.
In short, spousal maintenance is payment for the financial support of a former spouse. It is designed to assist spouses who are less able to provide for themselves financially after divorce, with the objective being to help them become self-sufficient and enable them to meet their basic financial needs.
Spousal maintenance, incidentally, can be awarded to either party, regardless of sex. If a man has been the stay-at-home dad, for instance, and not developed an income stream of his own, he may be granted maintenance assistance from his spouse if she is financially able to support him. Often, however, it is the woman who has less income (for one reason or another) than the man, so maintenance is usually thought of in terms of helping women make the transition to independence.
Supporting vs. Dependent Spouse
Since spousal maintenance is paid by the “supporting spouse” to the “dependent spouse,” the spouse who earns less money is called the “dependent spouse.” The amount that is paid will depend upon several factors. The incomes of the two spouses, the length of time that they were married, if one spouse is taking care of young children, the standard of living of the couple, and various other financial conditions, such as debts and other financial obligations, are all factors to be considered in determining spousal maintenance.
The amount of time it is likely to take a dependent spouse to become self-supporting is also factored into the decision regarding how much maintenance is paid and for what period of time it is paid. In most spousal arrangements, maintenance terminates upon the death of either spouse and at such time as the dependent spouse re-marries.
Negotiation and Mediation
Maintenance is something that is usually worked out through negotiation between the parties (with or without their divorce attorneys) or by mediation, and a great deal of discretion is allowed. For instance, in the case of a long-term marriage of 30 years, where one spouse has been the primary breadwinner the majority of the time, maintenance could conceivably continue for many years, if not life. If on the other hand, a couple has only been married 3 years, maintenance may not be agreed to at all, or it may be of very short duration.
If spousal maintenance is to be an issue, as it would be in the case of a stay-at-home parent, the parties usually agree to a temporary maintenance amount to be paid by the supporting spouse while the divorce proceeding takes place. This assures that the mother of young children at home, for example, is still able to pay for her ordinary living expenses.
The bottom line is that spousal maintenance is intended to balance out the differences in income between the two parties to a divorce until the dependent spouse is on his or her feet and no longer considered dependent.
Divorce Matters® represents clients throughout Metro Denver and the Front Range including: Arapahoe County, Aurora, Boulder, Bow Mar, Castle Pines, Castle Rock, Centennial, Douglas County, Englewood, Cherry Hills Village, Denver, Greenwood Village, Jefferson County, Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Lone Tree, Louisville, and Parker.
Call Divorce Matters® today at (720) 542-6142 to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.
If the court has ordered you to pay spousal maintenance and you haven’t been paying, then it is possible for your ex-spouse to file garnishment paperwork with the court. Once approved, money would be taken out of your paycheck and paid in accordance with the court order. There is a limit as to how much money can be garnished from your paycheck.
While a divorce case is pending, the court can impose temporary orders regarding finances and child support. In some cases, the court will also order temporary spousal maintenance.
Under Colorado law, the maintenance you pay reduces your overall income and increases your ex’s overall income for the child support calculation.