Frequently Asked Colorado Alimony Questions Part 1
- What is alimony?
In Colorado, the term alimony is not used, though it is the common term most people recognize. Pursuant to statute, alimony is actually called “maintenance.” Maintenance, or alimony, is support, separate from child support, specifically designed for the financial support of one spouse by the other. This support is geared towards making sure that the other spouse has the ability to meet his or her basic financial needs. The amount of maintenance to be paid depends on various factors, such as the income of the parties, the length of the marriage, other financial circumstances of the parties (such as debt load or other financial obligations), the standard of living obtained during the marriage, whether one party is caring for young children, and more. Unlike child support, alimony is generally a gray area, meaning there is not a specific formula to be used in many cases. There is a temporary maintenance formula which can be applied, at the judge’s discretion, to cases in which the combined adjusted gross income of the husband and wife is less than $75,000 per year. Alimony can only be ordered in a divorce case, not a custody or any other case. Our Denver area family law attorneys can assess your case in terms of whether you may be entitled to alimony or whether you are at risk for paying alimony.
- How long does alimony run?
The issue of how long an award of alimony can run is also a gray question. One of the significant factors in assessing an alimony case is the length of the marriage prior to the divorce being completed. We are often left making educated assumptions about what is a proper length of time. One very loose rule of thumb that attorneys may go by in terms of a starting point would be ½ the length of a marriage. For example, in a 14 year marriage, one side may say they want 7 years of alimony. The other side will obviously argue that it should be less. The ultimate length of time is either going to be agreed to or will be subject to the judge’s discretion. The age of the parties can also play a significant factor. If the parties have been married 30 years and are in their 50's, it stands to reason that in cases in which one party has been the primary breadwinner, alimony could run until retirement, or potentially for the life of either party. Courts will also factor in how long it may take the recipient to become self-sufficient, such as how long he or she will need to complete college or some other sort of career training. Parties can lock in on an actual length of time via a maintenance agreement that is contractual and non-modifiable in nature. In these instances, the parties agree to a specific duration and the court is divested of jurisdiction to change that. In most instances, alimony will terminate upon the death of either party or the re-marriage of the recipient, regardless of the original time frame set.
- What is the temporary maintenance formula?
Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-114, for families with a combined adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 per year, the court can apply the temporary maintenance formula. Temporary maintenance runs while the case is pending up to the time the decree enters. The specific formula is 40% of the higher earner’s income minus 50% of the lower earner’s income. Courts will not always apply this in an exact sense, as the judge has the ability to forego application of the formula if such would cause financial hardship for the payer. In such instances, the payer will generally be responsible for a debt and obligation load, such as credit cards, mortgages, etc., that would make application impractical or unfair.
- Is alimony tax deductible?
We must preface this answer by indicating that we are not giving tax or tax law advice. For specific tax advice you must contact an accountant or the IRS. In a general sense, minus any intricate nuances, alimony paid may generally be taken as an income reducing deduction by the payer and will be counted as income to the recipient. Alimony is viewed differently from child support, which is not deductible or counted as income towards the recipient.
- What factors does a court look at when determining alimony?
When determining an award of alimony at the final divorce hearing, there are six factors set forth in statute which a court should look at:
- The financial resources of the parties. This can include income, the property allocated to each party, a party’s ability to independently meet his or her financial needs, and child support (if there are children).
- The time needed for the potential alimony recipient to become self-sufficient, whether through education or training. The court can also factor in that party’s future earning capacity.
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The length of the marriage.
- The age and health of the party seeking alimony.
- The ability of the party from whom alimony is being sought to meet his or her own financial needs while meeting the needs of the recipient.
When assessing alimony for our clients, we analyze all of these factors and presume that the court will, too. In most instances, the primary factors are going to be income/earning ability and the length of the marriage. With all of these factors at hand, the determination of maintenance is gray and can vary subjectively from court to court.
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