Denver Alimony Attorney
Experienced Denver Alimony Lawyer Ready To Assist You
Are You Seeking Colorado Spousal Support?
Pursuant to statute, “Alimony,” called “maintenance” in Colorado, is the financial support that one spouse in a divorce case may be required to pay for the 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 decades of combined experience to work for you!
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How Alimony Matters Are Addressed
In any Colorado divorce case, the issue of spousal support can be significant. The 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. The statute also authorizes an award of long terms maintenance to run for an amount of time after the divorce case is concluded. The Denver maintenance attorneys at our firm are well versed in either situation.
Prior to 2014, 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, the 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, with certain offsets tied into aggregate income percentages. Though the formula is not mandatory, courts are encouraged to use it, and if they don’t, they must state specifically why not. The formula changed further in 2018 as the result of changes to the federal tax code making spousal support payments for new orders entered after January 1, 2019 no longer a tax deductible/taxable event. Specifically, the end result paid or received is now lower to factor in the tax code changes. Over the last few years, the Denver divorce matters lawyers at Plog & Stein, P.C. have seen the various metropolitan area divorce courts gravitate towards utilizing the formulaic approach set forth in current statute.
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 timetable that sets forth the duration of alimony based on the length of the marriage, for marriages of 20 years or less. The timetable 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.
C.R.S. 14-10-114(4) authorizes a court to enter orders for temporary alimony, to run during the duration of a divorce or legal separation case. The formula applies. The timetable does not. In recognition of the fact that temporary orders are “temporary,” the statute specifically indicates that a determination of temporary maintenance will not prejudice either party for purposes of determining permanent orders, meaning maintenance for after the decree of dissolution or legal separation enters. Thus, temporary alimony should not affect the alimony decided at your final hearing. As resources and funds can be scarce for both parties while their case is pending, getting fair and appropriate temporary orders matters. Sometimes, various expenses, such as housing or car payments, can be paid in lieu of an actual monthly monetary alimony figure.
As Denver maintenance lawyers, 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, for divorce orders entered prior to 2019, alimony is tax deductible to the payer and counts as income to the recipient for tax purposes. For new cases, tax implications no longer apply.
Specifics of Alimony
Alimony can come in various forms and the specific language set forth in either agreements or court orders matters. In Colorado, an award of alimony will generally run for a set duration, though in some rare instances it may be ordered as “lifetime.” The duration of alimony will largely depend on the length of the marriage, though sometimes also the age of the parties.
Temporary maintenance may be awarded while your divorce is pending. When determining whether temporary spousal support should be awarded in cases in which a couple has a combined yearly gross income of $240,000 or less, the court generally will use a formula. Before applying this formula, the court will look at whether other spousal support or child support payments to prior spouses and children should be subtracted from either spouse’s adjusted gross income. The formula is not set in stone, and if you have a good reason, you may ask the court to deviate from it. Alternatively, both spouses may agree to waive temporary maintenance, or there may be no basis for maintenance orders to be entered. Each case is going to be different and incomes will generally be the pivotal factor.
The same statutory formula will also be looked at when it comes time to assess whether maintenance will be awarded to run after the final orders hearing is done. Aside from incomes of the parties, the court may look at other factors, including whether one spouse has insufficient property to take care of their own needs, cannot support themselves through employment, or takes care of a child with a condition that makes it appropriate for that spouse not to seek immediate employment. For example, an infant with special needs or an adult disabled child might take most of a custodial parent’s time, and in these cases, that spouse may not be able to work immediately after the divorce or at all. Likewise, the court can also look at the future earning capacity of the spouses, the duration of the marriage, the age and emotional condition of the spouse who needs maintenance, and the ability of the spouse being asked to pay to meet his or her own financial needs.
How Long Does Alimony Have to Be Paid For
For alimony to be paid after the divorce decree enters, the court will generally set the duration based on a statutory chart, which ranges for a marriage of between 3 and 20 years. Maintenance can certainly be assessed for marriages that are shorter or longer than the range, though courts are likely to follow the duration guidelines for marriages falling within that range. With marriages of roughly 12 years or greater, statute suggests that maintenance should run for at least half the length of the marriage. As with the amount of alimony, the court does not have to follow the duration chart, though it is generally normal to do so.
Though courts generally maintain jurisdiction to monitor and modify alimony awards, parties can contract as to both amount and duration, thereby divesting the court of modification jurisdiction. Likewise, maintenance is generally tax deductible to the payer and taxable to the payee. Understanding your legal options tied into alimony is key to making sure you get the result that is best for you.
In most cases, maintenance is intended to not only provide a spouse with ongoing support but to also give him or her a chance to improve earning potential through employment or education. In this regard, maintenance can also be viewed as rehabilitative. In other words, it is sometimes there to allow a spouse with a lesser earning capacity or without a job the resources and time with which to improve their financial situation.
Understanding Alimony Payment Terms and Methods
Alimony (or spousal support) is designed to help a spouse with insufficient financial resources provide for their reasonable needs during and after a divorce. However, there is no automatic entitlement to alimony in Colorado. Instead, the court usually follows advisory guidelines to determine both the amount and how long the maintenance will be paid.
The advisory guidelines set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-114 are intended to help calculate how much alimony should be paid when a marriage was 3-20 years long and the annual combined income is under $360,000 per year. They provide a baseline for determining how much maintenance (alimony), if any, should be awarded. However, the judge still has the discretion to make an award that takes into account factors such as marital property, each spouse’s income, and each spouse’s financial resources. The guidelines are not binding.
When a family has an income of $360,000 or more, a judge has even greater discretion. The judge will consider such factors as how long the marriage lasted, the standard of living during the marriage, whether there are small children or disabled children from the marriage, the parties’ incomes, which property was awarded to each party, each spouse’s earning potential, and caregiving roles. When a marriage is more than 20 years, the guidelines are also of limited use because they rely on a timetable based on marriages that have a duration of 20 years or less.
Alimony is considered taxable income for the payee and is tax deductible for the payer. Additionally, if alimony is awarded to the party who is receiving child support, the alimony award becomes income for the payee and may affect the child support award.
Whether it is determined by an agreement between the divorcing spouses or a court order, alimony may be temporary or permanent in nature. Temporary alimony is awarded while the divorce is pending. This is awarded so that a non-earning spouse can continue to handle expenses when the earning spouse leaves. Permanent alimony, despite the name, is not necessarily alimony that is “permanent.” It is permanent in the sense that it is incorporated into the permanent final order and lasts for a specified duration until the recipient remarries, or until either spouse dies. In some cases with extremely long marriages and elderly parties or a disabled spouse, lifetime maintenance is possible.
In terms of payments, the majority of maintenance orders will entail a monthly payment from one spouse to the other. Payments can be made directly, whether via check, direct deposit, or some other form of transfer. Payments can also be made through a wage garnishment (Income Withholding Order). In this situation, the monthly payments are garnished from the payer’s income and either sent directly to the recipient or paid through the Family Support Registry. The Registry is a state-run holding tank into which payments are made and then disbursed to the payee. A Colorado alimony attorney can help you determine which scenario best suits your needs. Keep in mind that if the recipient requests an IWO he or she will likely be granted one. For payers, we recommended keeping record of all payments during the alimony term and avoiding making cash payments.
Maintenance orders are formulated either via settlement between the parties or via a court order handed down by a family law judge at a hearing. In most cases, the court retains jurisdiction over the issue of alimony as relates to both enforcement of orders and modifications. However, when parties are formulating divorce settlement agreements, they can agree to make the alimony contractual and non-modifiable. In this type of arrangement, the parties generally agree that the court is divested of any jurisdiction to modify the maintenance provisions. An agreement may also include specific terms as to how and when payment is to be made and under which circumstances it will be changed, if any. Unless the maintenance orders are contractual and non-modifiable, they will automatically terminate upon remarriage of the payee or the death of either party, as per statute. When entering into a contractual maintenance agreement, it is important for the payor to make sure he or she includes language tied into remarriage. It’s also important to make sure lesser provisions tied into maintenance are also made part of the “contract.”
With income tax implications tied into maintenance for both parties, it’s important to make sure your orders are structured so as to comply with IRS Code. Making lump sum payments, payments of property in lieu of maintenance, or irregular payments may divest the payer of the right to deduct the maintenance. Payment of other expenses as part of a maintenance obligation may be deductible in certain situations and if specified as “alimony” in your orders. If you are considering an alimony arrangement which entails something other than a regular monthly or another payment schedule it is advisable to consult with a tax attorney or certified public accountant, in addition to your Denver divorce lawyer.
Our Denver Alimony Lawyers Can Help You With Your Case!
Our lawyers can assist you in 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. Plog & Stein P.C. can readily help with securing the support you need or defending against an unreasonable alimony request. We also represent people who need a child support lawyer or assistance in other family law matters in Parker, Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, and Aurora, as well as other areas of Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Adams, and Boulder Counties. Contact us online or call our office to schedule a consultation. Our attorneys understand that your ability to make it financially hinges on the outcome of your divorce case and orders regarding alimony.
Have questions about obtaining alimony? Contact our office as soon as possible to obtain the answers you need.