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Alimony in Colorado Divorce

Colorado law explains how and when alimony or spousal support payments will be paid as part of a divorce case. Like other issues in a divorce, spousal support can be determined by the parties in the case. They may agree to waive alimony matters or to the terms and amount of spousal support payments. When they don’t, the court will intervene to make a decision on the matter.

Whether you are requesting or being asked to pay spousal support in a divorce case, here is what you need to know about alimony in Colorado.

Am I Entitled to Spousal Support or Will I Have to Pay Alimony in My Colorado Divorce?

There are no guarantees regarding alimony; in other words, no one is automatically entitled to or obligated to pay spousal support just because a divorce is occurring. Instead, case-specific factors will dictate whether and when alimony payments are an element of a divorce case.

Here, it’s crucial to understand that:

  • There are different types of spousal support: Alimony can be temporary or permanent, and it may be for rehabilitative or reimbursement purposes. Temporary spousal support is typically issued while a divorce case is underway and until “permanent” alimony orders can be put in place (in this context, “permanent” means longer-term, not “irreversible” or “forever”). Rehabilitative alimony, the most common type, can help one party acquire job skills or training. Reimbursement spousal support may be awarded when one party has extended financial resources to advance the career of the other.
  • Valid prenups or post-nuptials matter: If couples have signed one of these agreements, the terms of spousal support that have been detailed in that agreement will be honored when the couples divorce. Of course, the prenuptial or post-nuptial must be legal. If either party contests the legality of such an agreement, additional court hearings may be necessary to determine the validity of the prenuptial or post-nuptial document.
  • The issue of alimony can be important leverage in divorce settlement negotiations: In some cases, the option of paying or foregoing spousal support (and even the amount that it may be set at) can be a bargaining chip for either side. It may be helpful in making headway and better compromises in other areas, like the division of property. Consequently, thinking about alimony in the bigger picture of the divorce case is usually a smart idea.

How Does the Court Determine Spousal Support in Colorado Divorce?

The court will consider many factors when deciding:

  1. Whether to order spousal support
  2. The amount and duration of spousal support payments

Specific factors that the court considers when making these determinations include (but are not limited to):

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, physical condition, and overall health of both parties
  • The standard of living enjoyed by both parties during the marriage
  • The financial resources of each spouse
  • The respective earning capacity of each party
  • The time either party may need to obtain sufficient education or training in order to secure gainful employment
  • The division of the marital property in the divorce
  • The contributions either party made to the household and/or the career of the other
  • Whether (or how much) temporary spousal support has been paid
  • The couple’s annual gross income

Additionally, the court must answer questions, like (but not exclusive to):

  • Does the spouse who is requesting alimony (the requester) lack the financial resources necessary to meet their reasonable needs?
  • Does the requester have or lack the ability to get a job and support him- or herself?
  • Does the requester support a disabled child and/or parent, limiting the ability to seek employment?

When the court determines that spousal support should be awarded in a Colorado divorce case, a complex formula will be used to figure out the amount of those payments.

Judicial Discretion for Colorado Alimony

Despite the mandates that Colorado law has regarding spousal support, judges have plenty of discretion in these cases. In other words, family court judges have the authority to assess details of the case—including things outside the bounds of alimony formulas and typical spousal support factors—and make decisions regarding the amounts and duration of spousal support payments.

For divorcing parties, that means there is room to present evidence and arguments, beyond the standard factors. It also provides an opportunity to seek rulings and awards that better fit the circumstances of a case.

What is Nominal Spousal Support?

Nominal maintenance may be awarded when the bread-winning spouse is not earning what (s)he typically does. This has become a central focus in many divorce cases occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic when several people have found themselves unemployed or with reduced income. Like other forms of spousal support, nominal alimony may be modifiable in the future, as life and financial circumstances evolve.

When Can Alimony in Colorado Be Modified?

Spousal support in Colorado can be modifiable when there has been a material change in circumstances. Specifically, the payor is unable to pay spousal support for certain reasons, the court will consider requests to modify these payments. For example, if the payor has been laid off or fired, the courts may modify alimony. However, if the payor has intentionally walked away from a job and is not making any effort to secure new employment, alimony orders may stand.

On both sides of the alimony issue, things can be complex and sensitive, both a divorce first occurs and in the years after when modification requests arise.

No matter what side of the issue you’re on—and regardless of whether alimony issues arise in or after divorce—you can rely on a 5-star Fort Collins alimony lawyer at The Cossitt Law Firm, LLC for exceptional representation and experienced counsel. We are ready to answer your questions about spousal support and advise you on your best options for proceeding.

Call (970) 488-1887 for a free, 100% confidential consultation from an experienced attorney.

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Fort Collins Divorce & Child Support Attorneys

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