Determining Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) in Colorado

Filed Under (Divorce and Legal Separation) on 07-03-2013

Spousal Support, Alimony, Alimony and Divorce

By Dennis Knight, Associate Paralegal Member, Colorado Bar Association, Co-Author of Colorado Family Law Deskbook with Forms

Up until now the Colorado Statutes provided little guidance to the Court concerning maintenance awards. There has been inconsistency in the amount and term of maintenance awarded in different judicial districts across the State. A new bill (HB 1058 ) was signed this past legislative session creating a process for determining an award for spousal maintenance in proceedings for dissolution of marriage and legal separation. Judges will now have a statutory framework with guidelines to be considered as a starting point for determining a fair maintenance award.

The new spousal maintenance statute, C.R.S. § 14-10-114 addresses spousal maintenance on a formula basis using two factors:

1.    The relative incomes of the parties, which is used to calculate the amount of maintenance, and

2.    The length of the marriage, which is used to determine the duration of the maintenance in months.

Under the new guidelines the amount of maintenance is equal to 40 percent of the higher income party’s monthly adjusted gross income less 50 percent of the lower income party’s monthly adjusted gross income. For example, an award of maintenance in a ten-year marriage where the wife’s adjusted gross income is $10,000 per month and the husband earned $4,000 per month would result in a maintenance award of $2,000 per month payable by wife to husband for fifty-four months.

There is no presumption of husband or wife as the payor or payee, only who has the larger income. The statute requires that spousal maintenance first be requested, and then, before an award is made, the Court must review the financial resources of each party, reasonable financial need, fairness and equity. The formula does not create a presumption, and the Court has discretion to determine an award that is fair and equitable. However, the court must make written or oral findings in support of an award that deviates from the guidelines or a denial of maintenance.

The Court may award additional marital property to the recipient spouse or otherwise adjust the distribution of marital property or debt to alleviate the need for maintenance or reduce the amount or term of the award.  The statute goes into effect for dissolutions of marriage beginning January 1, 2014, but attorneys are finding that judges are already considering the formula for current final orders, and counsel are negotiating settlements using the formula.