If you are facing a divorce or legal separation, you should prepare yourself for significant financial changes. This includes the possibility of receiving or paying alimony.
Whether you hope to receive payment or hope to avoid paying, you might be wondering, “How long do you have to be married to get alimony in Colorado?” In Colorado, we call alimony spousal “maintenance” or support, and our divorce courts have significant discretion when awarding maintenance payments. Our top-rated family law legal team at Plog & Stein, P.C. have decades of experience and is ready to answer your questions about what to expect in a divorce.
Unlike child support for parties with minor children, spousal maintenance is not a given part of every divorce decree. Under Colorado law, courts can grant spousal maintenance when one spouse needs support and the other is able to pay. The amount and duration of maintenance payments have to be fair and equitable to both parties, and marital misconduct is not a factor in the determination. While maintenance awards should be “fair” to both parties, the judge’s ideas regarding what is equitable may differ from that of either spouse.
Basically, there is only one type of alimony, but a party can receive temporary alimony while their divorce is pending and post-decree alimony when the divorce is final. You can allow the court to decide the maintenance amount and duration, or you and your spouse can enter a written agreement to decide the amount and duration on your own. If you and your spouse enter a written agreement, you can modify your maintenance, in certain circumstances, unless you have made the agreement “contractual and non-modifiable.”
The law requires family courts to analyze many factors and make calculations when deciding the amount of support in Colorado divorce cases. Factors that inform the amount and duration of maintenance include:
- The receiving spouse’s actual and potential financial resources and ability to independently meet their own needs;
- The paying spouse’s actual and potential financial resources and ability to meet their needs while paying maintenance;
- The lifestyle during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The division of the marital property;
- The income of both parties, their employment, their employability, and their employment options in light of the needs of any unemancipated children of the marriage;
- The earning history of each party;
- The amount and duration of temporary maintenance;
- The age, health, and healthcare needs of each party;
- The potential need to award nominal maintenance to preserve a party’s future claim to maintenance;
- Either party’s significant economic or noneconomic contributions to the marriage and advancement of the other party;
- The taxability and tax deductibility of the maintenance payments; and
- Any other relevant factors.
If the court decides that it can resolve financial inequities by granting a needy party larger portions of the marital estate, the court might deny a spousal maintenance request.
A marriage does not have to last for any particular length of time before a party can receive maintenance. However, the law deems maintenance more appropriate after parties have been married for at least three years.
While you don’t have to be married for a particular amount of time to receive maintenance in a divorce or separation, the length of your marriage affects the amount you receive. For marriages that lasted at least three years between parties with an annual adjusted gross income of $240,000 or less, the basic guideline formula for calculating maintenance amounts is as follows:
- For federally taxable and deductible maintenance awards – 40% of both parties’ combined monthly adjusted gross income minus the lower income party’s monthly adjusted gross income (down to zero);
- For maintenance awards that are not federally taxable or deductible for parties with a combined monthly adjusted gross income of $10,000 or less – 80% of what the maintenance amount would be if the award was taxable and deductible; and
- For maintenance awards that are not federally taxable or deductible for parties with a combined monthly adjusted gross income of more than $10,000 and up to $20,000 – 75% of what the maintenance amount would be if the award was taxable and deductible.
Spousal maintenance awarded in a divorce after December 31, 2018, is not deductible to the payor spouse or taxable to the payee spouse for federal income tax purposes.
These calculations sound complex because they are. Your best option for safeguarding your financial stability post divorce is to hire an experienced attorney immediately.
For marriages that lasted between three and 20 years, the duration of spousal maintenance payments can last from 11 months (for three-year marriages) all the way up to 10 years (for 20-year marriages). If your marriage lasted for more than 20 years, the court might order a longer duration, potentially even a lifetime of maintenance payments.
We Can Protect You During Divorce Proceedings
We have been in operation since 1999 at Plog & Stein, P.C., and our lawyers have received top ratings from multiple legal organizations. We dedicate our practice to helping clients navigate Colorado’s family law system, and we take the time to make sure we understand and champion each client’s unique needs. This is an incredibly sensitive time in your life—we have what it takes to protect your rights. If you need help, you can call us at 303-781-0322 or contact us online.