Couples Don’t Always Leave A Marriage On Equal Footing. That’s Where Spousal Support Comes In.
If you are filing for divorce in El Paso or Teller County in Colorado, one of your first questions might be whether you are entitled to spousal support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance. Under Colorado law, neither spouse is automatically “entitled” to spousal support during and after their divorce. However, the statutes governing the dissolution of your marriage do provide for such an award if the spouse requesting it satisfies certain criteria. Whether a local judge will grant your petition for spousal maintenance depends on several factors.
What Is Spousal Maintenance In Colorado?
Simply put, spousal maintenance is an obligation imposed on one spouse to provide financial support for the other in a specific amount for a designated period. The spouse responsible to provide financial support typically pays maintenance to the receiving spouse each month.
When the Colorado State Legislature passed Colorado’s current spousal maintenance statute in 2014, the legislature explained the reasons and purpose behind spousal maintenance::
“The economic lives of spouses are frequently closely intertwined in marriage and… it is often impossible to later segregate the respective decisions and contributions of the spouses. Consequently, awarding spousal maintenance may be appropriate if a spouse needs support and the other spouse has the ability to pay support.”
So, even though there is no automatic right to spousal support in Colorado, an El Paso or Teller County judge will often award one spouse financial support on a temporary or longer-term basis when the sacrifices they made or the role they played during the marriage left them at an economic disadvantage at the time of the divorce. For instance, if one spouse put a hold on their career or left the workforce to help raise a family, worked full-time to help the other spouse pay for medical school or other economic circumstances, Colorado law provides for the award of spousal maintenance and support both during and after the divorce proceedings.
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Factors Considered By Judges When Deciding Whether To Award Spousal Support
In 2014, Colorado significantly changed the way our local judges determine and award spousal maintenance. The law established mathematical guidelines for determining the duration and amount of maintenance for couples whose combined annual income is less than or equal to $240,000. The legislature imposed these standards after concluding there was too much unpredictability and inconsistency in the way judges were evaluating requests for spousal maintenance.
Either spouse can petition a judge for an award of spousal support. When deciding whether to award spousal support in a Colorado divorce, a judge will consider all of the following factors:
- Financial resources of the spouse requesting alimony, including any award of marital property or child support in the divorce and their ability to meet their needs independently;
- Financial resources of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought, including their ability to meet their reasonable needs while paying maintenance;
- Future earning potential of the spouse requesting support, and any time needed for education and training;
- The couple’s lifestyle during their marriage;
- Distribution of marital property in the divorce proceedings;
- Duration of the marriage; and
- The physical and emotional condition and age of the spouse requesting maintenance.
A judge will only award spousal support if, after considering the foregoing factors, they conclude that the spouse requesting support lacks sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs and cannot support themselves through appropriate employment. The judge may also award maintenance if the requesting spouse needs to take care of a child whose condition or circumstances make it unsuitable or difficult to earn income outside the home.
How Long Can Someone Receive Spousal Support?
Once a judge decides that maintenance is warranted, they must decide how long that spouse will receive that support. The single most significant factor in that determination is the length of the marriage. Generally, the longer the marriage, the longer the duration of support payments. For marriages that last at least three but not more than 20 years, the law establishes guidelines that calculate the duration of support based on a percentage of the length of the marriage. That percentage increases the longer a marriage lasts.
For example, the recommended term of spousal support after a five-year marriage is 21 months (35 percent of the total time the marriage lasted). However, the recommended support term after a 10-year marriage is four and one-half years (45 percent). For marriages that endured for 12 ½ years or more, the recommended term of support is 50 percent of the total years of the marriage before the divorce.
Determining the Amount of Spousal Support
As with the duration of spousal maintenance payments, Colorado law establishes guidelines for determining the amount of financial support a spouse must pay every month. Typically, maintenance will be 40 percent of the top earner’s adjusted gross monthly income minus 50 percent of the other spouse’s adjusted gross monthly income.
That being said, it is important to remember that these guidelines for both the duration and amount of spousal support are just that – guidelines. How much support a judge will award and for how long depends on the specific circumstances of each case. Under the 2014 revised statutes for spousal maintenance, judges retain discretion to issue maintenance orders that stray from the guidelines. However, in order to do so, they must first calculate what the award would be using those guidelines and ensure that the maintenance order is “fair and equitable to both parties based upon the totality of the circumstances.”
Still Wondering About Whether You Are Entitled To Spousal Support? Call Colorado Springs Divorce Attorneys At Perkins Law For Answers.
At Perkins Law, we understand that filing for divorce is an emotionally charged process, and trying to calculate spousal support, child support, and other financial considerations can make an already difficult process seem impossible. As committed and compassionate Colorado Springs divorce attorneys, we are ready to help you navigate the challenges in a way that minimizes conflict, protects your rights, and helps you turn the page on your marriage to a bright new chapter for you and your children. Call us today to schedule your free, initial, confidential consultation, and take charge of your future.
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