Overview of Alimony/Maintenance in Colorado
In Colorado, the terms alimony and maintenance mean the same thing: a spouse is ordered by the court to provide financial support to the other spouse even after the marriage ends. As the term “maintenance” implies, financial support is supposed to help the lower-earning spouse maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. Alimony is designed to help the economically-disadvantaged spouse become self-sufficient.
Colorado law recognizes four types of maintenance in divorces:
Determining which type of alimony will be awarded in your specific case can be challenging. The determination of the type, amount, and duration of maintenance in a Colorado divorce depends on a number of factors. A skilled attorney can assess your particular situation to help you navigate the legal complexities regarding spousal maintenance.
Who Is Entitled to Alimony/Maintenance?
In Colorado, maintenance is available to the economically disadvantaged spouse. The goal of awarding alimony is to ensure that the lower-earning spouse can meet their basic financial needs after a marriage ends. It is a common misconception that only women are entitled to alimony. In fact, Colorado law requires courts to award alimony that is fair and equitable given the parties’ circumstances, regardless of their gender. According to a study of census data by the Urban Institute, more women have become heads of the household in recent years.
Determination of Type, Amount, and Duration
As a rule of thumb, courts in Colorado typically consider spousal maintenance to be appropriate in marriages that lasted at least three years. When determining the amount, type, and duration of alimony, the court will consider the following factors:
- The financial situation of each spouse
- The earning potential and employability of each spouse
- The duration of the marriage
- Each spouse’s lifestyle
- Each spouse’s contributions during the marriage, including economic and educational ones, as well as raising the kids, looking after the family home, and others
- Whether the higher-earning spouse is able to support the other spouse’s financial needs after a divorce
- The manner in which property was distributed in the divorce
- Each party’s history of employment and income earned during the marriage
- Each spouse’s health and age
- Other factors deemed relevant by the court
Prior to awarding alimony in a divorce, the court must first determine that ordering maintenance would be appropriate under the couple’s unique circumstances. Once the determination is made, the judge will decide on the amount and duration of alimony. Colorado law provides a formula to help judges determine the appropriate amount of alimony in a divorce. According to the formula, 40% of the payer spouse’s adjusted gross income (AGI) should be paid to the recipient spouse minus 50% of the lower-earning spouse’s AGI.
The duration of maintenance in Colorado depends on the number of months the marriage lasted. When the duration of the marriage exceeds 20 years, the court can order the higher-earning spouse to pay alimony indefinitely.
Making Changes to an Alimony Agreement
While Colorado law allows parties to make changes to an existing alimony agreement, there are certain requirements that must be met to modify the agreement. Typically, the court will not approve a party’s request for modification unless there has been a sudden and substantial change in income (decrease or increase). In most cases, maintenance terminates if the recipient spouse dies, remarries, or begins living with someone they have an intimate, personal relationship with.