Spousal maintenance is a common (and contentious) issue in many divorces. Maintenance, also known as spousal support or alimony, may be awarded in a Colorado divorce or legal separation if one spouse is unable to be self-supporting or not able to fully meet his or her reasonable needs for living expenses.
Colorado has a statutory formula for the calculation of maintenance. However, the formula is only an advisory guideline. As well, the income levels covered by the formula are limited. The judge ultimately has discretion to award or deny spousal support, and to deviate from the presumptive amount. As a result, maintenance is often a wild card in Colorado divorce cases.
From Kathleen’s interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com
Experienced Advocacy For The Complex Issue Of Spousal Maintenance
The divorce lawyers of Hogan Omidi, PC, can gauge whether maintenance is likely to apply in your situation and advocate for you in divorce negotiations or contested proceedings. We regularly represent executives, professionals, business owners, athletes and others who might be required to pay alimony because of their income. We also represent the spouses of those high earners who may be entitled to interim support or ongoing maintenance payments.
Traditionally, maintenance is a monthly payment from one spouse to the other in recognition of their unbalanced financial circumstances. Spousal support can also be a bargaining chip or balancing tool in the division of assets and overall divorce settlement. It is a case-specific issue that requires a skilled negotiator. Your attorney also needs to know how to litigate alimony, in the event you are not able to reach an out-of-court solution. This includes using vocational evaluations, earnings history, job search information, tax analysis and the like to advance or oppose a claim for maintenance.
Factors In Calculating And Awarding Spousal Support
The Colorado legislature enacted alimony reform in 2018 to make it fairer and more predictable. The law provides an advisory formula for calculating statutory maintenance. Because the formula is advisory and not mandatory, judges still have leeway.
Each spouse’s gross income is plugged into the formula. The greater the disparity, the higher the payment.
The advisory duration of statutory maintenance is based on the length of the marriage:
- No maintenance is merited in marriages of less than three years.
- If the marriage lasted five years, support would be awarded for no more than 2 years.
- The maximum duration is 50% of the term of marriage. For a 14-year marriage, maintenance would last no longer than 7 years.
- For marriages of 20 or more years, the court can award indefinite or “lifetime” alimony.
Again, these calculations are not binding. The judge retains leeway to grant more or less maintenance – or no maintenance – based on the entirety of the estate and the respective circumstances of the spouses. In addition the ages of the spouses affect whether the formula duration is realistic in a particular case.
Maintenance When Income Exceeds The Guidelines
The maintenance calculator tops out at $350,000 in combined gross income of the spouses. Many of our clients exceed that amount. The court may adhere to the statutory guidelines for duration of maintenance (length of marriage), but the amount is variable. The judge is not supposed to simply extrapolate from the high end of the chart, but instead is supposed to weigh various factors including income disparity, accustomed lifestyle, child-rearing responsibilities, employable skills and past earnings, and the age and health of both spouses.
Rather than rolling the dice with the court, we may recommend negotiating an out-of-court alimony agreement. That allows the negotiation to include whether maintenance will be modifiable if circumstances change in the future or whether it will be an order that is set in stone and cannot be modified later by either party. For all these reasons, you need experienced legal counsel on your side.
Sometimes maintenance awards are made nonmodifiable as to term, as to amount, or both. In other cases, awards of spousal maintenance may be the subject of later modification proceedings. Colorado law offers guidance as to the material change in circumstances that may justify a modification either upward or downward. Our lawyers have experience representing the party receiving spousal support and the party seeking a change.