Spousal Maintenance (aka Alimony) in Colorado – What you need to know if you are divorcing.Stephanie Zambo
You should know about spousal maintenance in Colorado and what the Court will consider if you or your spouse are requesting maintenance during a Colorado divorce. Regardless of the duration of the marriage, maintenance may be awarded on a temporary basis. In many marriages, maintenance is available on an ongoing basis depending on the length of the marriage and many other factors. The legal standard for awarding maintenance on a temporary or short-term basis is different then the legal standard for awarding maintenance on a permanent or long term basis.
Are You Entitled to Spousal Maintenance in Your Colorado Divorce?
The Court will consider many factors when determining if spousal maintenance (alimony) should be awarded in your divorce case. If your divorce case proceeds to trial and maintenance is requested by either spouse, your unique circumstances should be evaluated by the Judge. Colorado law requires every divorce judge to make findings in a contested divorce when a request for an award of maintenance is made. A Judge may decline to award maintenance when the facts do not support an award of maintenance, and a judge may award a nominal amount of maintenance when the present circumstances are likely to change in the near future.
For long term or permanent maintenance when divorcing, the Court must make findings of fact based on the evidence presented at trial. Evidence will be presented at trial by each side for issues that cannot be agreed upon, including any requests for maintenance.
What Does the Court Consider When Awarding Maintenance?
- Marital property awarded to each party. That’s right, marital property division must be determined before addressing maintenance;
- Each spouses income;
- Any separate property either spouse owns, and other financial resources of each spouse.
Following the Initial Findings, the Court must consider Colorado’s Maintenance Calculation:
- Pursuant to Colorado law the Court must consider the guideline calculation of maintenance. The calculation takes the monthly incomes of each spouse and the duration of the marriage to calculate an amount and duration of maintenance pursuant to Colorado law.
- You can use our maintenance calculator to run your own income numbers but remember, other factors will be considered for the final calculation of maintenance
The next step for the Judge deciding your maintenance divorce case will be to decide many factors, including, but not limited to:
- The financial resources of each spouse;
- The standard of living during the marriage;
- The duration / length of the marriage;
- Any temporary maintenance paid in both amount and duration;
- If nominal maintenance should be awarded (see more about nominal maintenance below).
Finally, the Court must consider:
- Does the spouse seeking an award of maintenance lack the property to meet their reasonable needs; and,
- Does the spouse seeking maintenance lack the ability to support their self through employment; or,
- Does the spouse seeking maintenance support a disabled child that limits or prohibits that parent’s ability to seek employment?
The Judge’s Discretion
While Colorado law requires judges to consider many factors when determining if an award of maintenance is warranted or not, Judges deciding maintenance awards in Colorado have broad discretion to determine if an award of maintenance is warranted, and if it is, how much and for how long maintenance should be paid.
When is Nominal Maintenance Awarded?
Nominal maintenance may be awarded when circumstance at the time of divorce hearing the bread-winning spouse is not earning what they traditionally / historically have. Nominal maintenance is becoming much more common during the COVID 19 pandemic as layoffs and unemployment claims have increased. When awarded by the Court nominal maintenance is fully modifiable.
When Can Maintenance be Modified?
With the recent COVID 19 pandemic and subsequent layoffs and furloughs, many are unemployed and some may not return to the level of employment they had only months ago. Regardless, the legal standard for modifying maintenance remains the same.
When maintenance is modifiable the Court will consider the financial circumstances of the parties at the time of any modification hearing. The Court will seek evidence there has been an ongoing change in circumstances in regards to either the need for maintenance or the ability to pay maintenance. Maintenance can be modified if a motion to modify maintenance is filed before the last maintenance payment comes due.
The award of spousal maintenance in Colorado involves many complexities. If you or your spouse are requesting maintenance in your divorce, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney. Our Fort Collins family law attorneys are available for free consultations to discuss your Colorado divorce case in more detail. Call 970-488-1887 to schedule your consultation today or fill out our contact form here and one of our team members will reach out to you.