Alimony, or spousal maintenance as it is called in Colorado, is a monetary award a judge might order one spouse to pay the other after a divorce. Alimony serves to balance the scales between two ex-spouses after a divorce if an income disparity exists. If one spouse gave up a career to take care of the household, for example, that spouse might qualify for alimony from the other spouse after divorce. Not every divorce case results in alimony. It is largely up to a judge whether or not to award it in Colorado. The type of alimony also changes on a case-to-case basis.
Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-114 is the state’s spousal maintenance law. It states that when two spouses’ lives get so closely intertwined in marriage, it can be impossible to later separate the contributions of each. Lawmakers often find it necessary to provide temporary spousal maintenance during the period of adjustment before a divorce, when the lower-earning spouse is first learning how to become financially independent. Temporary alimony has a clear end date when awarded by a judge: the completion of the divorce.
When deciding on an appropriate amount to award in temporary alimony, a judge will use the equation in Colorado’s spousal maintenance statute. If the couple’s combined annual gross income is $75,000 or less, the amount of alimony will equal 40% of the higher-earning party’s monthly gross income, minus 50% of the lower-earning spouse’s income. If the combined income is greater than $75,000, alimony can come in any amount the judge deems just, taking into account factors such as the financial resources of the spouse seeking alimony, standards of living during the marriage and the duration of the marriage.
Temporary alimony generally lasts until the date the courts finalize the divorce. It is a type of support awarded to get a spouse through the divorce process without an excessive amount of financial duress. Either spouse has the right to contest the amount of alimony a judge awards. The spouse receiving alimony may also request to make a temporary support order permanent after the divorce. A Denver alimony lawyer can assist you with any changes or requests in your spousal support agreement.
Permanent alimony does not necessarily mean one spouse has to pay the other indefinitely. It means the spouse must continue paying alimony even after the finalization of the divorce, for a period of time a judge deems appropriate. Permanent or post-divorce spousal maintenance is rehabilitative, meant to help the lower-earning spouse until he or she can acquire the education, experience or training necessary to financially support him or herself. A judge may make an alimony order permanent in the true sense of the word in cases involving long-term marriages (20 years or longer).
When determining how long a permanent alimony order will last, a judge in Colorado can consider several factors. The first is the standard of living the spouse enjoyed while married. The second is any issue that could interfere with the recipient’s employability, such as a physical disability or mental health problem. The third is the recipient’s age. The fourth is the ability of the paying spouse to fulfill an alimony order while still meeting his or her own needs. Ultimately, it is up to a judge to decide whether one spouse is in need of alimony, and if so, the duration of the order.
Modifying an Alimony Order
Colorado law may allow either spouse to request a modification after a judge finalizes the maintenance order, but only in certain situations. If a couple agrees to alimony as part of a settlement and state that it is nonmodifiable, neither will be able to modify the order in the future. Court-ordered maintenance, however, is modifiable if a spouse’s circumstances significantly change and will stay that way for the foreseeable future. In this situation, either spouse can petition the courts to modify a maintenance order. Most alimony awards in Colorado will end if the receiving spouse remarries.