Pursuant to statute, “Alimony,” called "maintenance" in Colorado, is financial support that one spouse in a divorce case may be required to pay for support of the other. Unlike child support, which is for the financial support of the children, alimony is specifically geared towards assisting one party in the case with his or her financial needs and living expenses. At Plog & Stein, P.C., our Denver alimony attorneys recognize that alimony can be a complex part of any divorce case. If you need help petitioning for alimony, let us put our more than 60 years of combined experience to work for you!
In any Colorado divorce case, the issue of spousal support can be significant. Statute authorizes a temporary award of maintenance while a case is pending, in recognition of the fact that people may need financial help from their spouse in the immediate. Statute also authorizes an award of long terms maintenance to run for an amount of time after the divorce case is concluded. The alimony lawyers at our Denver firm are well versed in either situation.
In the past, alimony, or “maintenance,” was somewhat of a gray area in that parties to a Colorado divorce were faced with alimony being decided based on the judge’s subjective discretion as to whether spousal support was warranted, the monthly amount, and the duration of the marriage. Commencing in 2014, Colorado statute changed when the legislature adopted a maintenance formula applicable to cases in which the combined adjusted gross income of the parties was less than $240,000 per year. The specific formula is 40% of the higher earner's monthly income minus 50% of the lower earner's monthly income. Though the formula is not mandatory, courts are encouraged to use it, and if they don’t, they must state specifically why not. The attorneys at Plog & Stein have seen a trend over the last couple of years in which most Denver metropolitan area divorce courts are utilizing the formula.
In cases in which a family’s income is $240,000 per year or more, the gray area still exists. In either scenario, the following factors should still be assessed:
- Income of the parties
- Length of marriage
- Standard of living attained during the marriage
- Whether one party is caring for small children
- Property awarded to each party
- The earning potential of each party
These factors are of particular importance to higher income families. The legislature also enacted a time table which sets forth the duration of alimony based on the length of marriage, for marriages of 20 years or less. The time table caps out at 50% of the length of the marriage. For marriages over 20 years, the duration will likely be at least half and potentially longer.
Though alimony can be gray in terms of ascertaining an appropriate amount, C.R.S. 14-10-115 does set forth a temporary formula for cases in which the parties have a combined adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 per year. In these instances, the formula is 40% of the higher earner's monthly pay minus 50% of the lower earner's monthly pay. This formula only applies at the "temporary" orders stage of your divorce case. Furthermore, the court can deviate from the formula if the application of such would be unfair to the payer in terms of his or her ability to meet his or her own financial needs. Temporary alimony should not affect alimony decided at your final hearing.
As alimony attorneys in the Denver area, we try to take the "gray" out of the equation by formulating general rules of thumb to go by. We also try to obtain an educated feel for each judge in terms of how he or she may view alimony. With multiple counties in the Denver area, alimony rulings can vary. A judge in an Arapahoe County divorce may rule entirely differently from a judge in Jefferson County. Each case is truly individual, though general assumptions can help you gain a better idea of what to expect.Types of Alimony: Contractual & Court-Ordered
In terms of maintenance at the time of decree, there are generally two types of alimony: contractual/non-modifiable or court- ordered. If your divorce case ultimately ends up being resolved by a hearing in front of a judge, that judge will enter an order indicating a specific amount of alimony for usually a specific amount of time. If alimony is decided by the judge, the court retains jurisdiction to modify the alimony award should circumstances change significantly, pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-122. With contractual/non-modifiable alimony, the parties generally agree to a specific amount and duration, and usually agree that the court is divested of jurisdiction to modify. Our legal team will help you determine if your case is an alimony case, what is fair to you, and whether contractual or court ordered alimony best suits your financial situation.
You should also be aware of the following:
- In Colorado, once alimony is waived, that waiver is forever. Thus, one should be certain before waiving the right to receive maintenance, as he or she will be precluded from returning to court to seek it at a later date.
- Alimony generally ceases with the death of either party or remarriage of the recipient.
- In most instances, alimony is tax deductible to the payer and counts as income to the recipient for tax purposes.
Our attorneys can assist you with assessing and litigating the alimony aspects of your divorce case. This will include a thorough analysis of your financial situation, mapped up with the statutory factors indicated above. We can also determine whether an occupational evaluator or other expert is needed regarding the issues of alimony and your spouse’s income potential. We can readily help with securing the support you need or defending against an unreasonable alimony request. Our attorneys understand that your ability to make it financially hinges on the outcome of your divorce case and orders regarding alimony.