Posted by: Vernon Ready
If you are facing a divorce settlement, you may also be facing a decision about paying or receiving alimony.
Colorado recently changed the way it views and calculates alimony payments. Modern times have seen big changes in the way marriage, divorce, and family dynamics are viewed in this country. State legislation regarding alimony and child support have responded to and begun to reflect these changes. If a divorce is in your future, we have laid out everything you need to know about alimony in Colorado.
When you get a divorce, a court will decide how to divide marital property, which spouse will pay alimony (also called “spousal maintenance” in Colorado) and how child custody and support is divided.
Spouses can come to an agreement on any of these big decisions before they file for divorce, or they can let a judge decide.
In the past, it was hard to determine how much spousal maintenance payments would be. The decision would be up to the judge, who looked at things like monthly income, property, child support payments, the standard of living for each spouse, and so on, and would make his or her own decision based on what they thought was fair.
Unfortunately, this was leading to inconsistencies across the state. Two couples with similar finances in different parts of the state would have to pay vastly different amounts for spousal maintenance. As divorce became more common, these inconsistencies showed up more and more.
In 2014, new legislation passed that gave Colorado a more standardized way to calculate spousal maintenance payments. A simplified version of the formula is as follows:
A judge takes 40% of the higher earner’s monthly income and subtracts 50% of the lower earner’s monthly income. The other assets and payments determined in the divorce proceedings will change this number slightly. The final number will be paid monthly. A judge will look at the length of the marriage to determine how long the higher earner will have to pay spousal maintenance.
The formula is reserved for marriages that lasted between 3-20 years and couples that together do not make more than $240,000 a year.
Of course, this calculation is still not a guaranteed way to determine the exact amount of spousal maintenance that will be paid. A judge will consider the following factors when adjusting spousal maintenance payments:
Colorado is a “no-fault” state, meaning that the court will not take who “caused” the divorce into consideration. Fault is not a factor from the beginning, and should not affect alimony payments.
Spousal maintenance is often viewed as a way to help one spouse transition the other spouse into their new life and get them on their feet to start supporting themselves. Permanent alimony is actually pretty rare, and has grown more rare with Colorado’s standardized formula. It is typically reserved for spouses who are physically or emotionally unable to hold a stable job, whether this is through a permanent injury, disability, or handicap.
Yes. Spousal maintenance can be changed or terminated at any time. You will have to file a motion, pay a small fee, and schedule a court date, but it could be settled in as little as two months. If you are anticipating a change in income or financial situation, it is important to file the motion as soon as possible.
Typically, if the spouse receiving spousal maintenance remarries, the spousal maintenance payments will be terminated.
The recipient of spousal maintenance must include payments in their income. For the payer, spousal maintenance is tax deductible. Keep this in mind if you and your spouse want to come to a spousal maintenance agreement before facing the court.
It is a good idea to have a lawyer representing you throughout your entire divorce. If you and your spouse are looking to determine payments and the division of assets before you file, look for a family lawyer who has experience in both third-party mediation and also estate planning.
Every marriage and divorce is different. To make sure you are properly represented and can guarantee a comfortable financial future, contact an experienced family law attorney with a track record of success today.
About the Author:
Vernon Ready is an award-winning Colorado lawyer with an in-depth understanding of all areas of family law, estate planning, and personal injury. His energetic and aggressive advocacy approach allow him to successfully navigate complex cases, including high asset divorce and complicated custody issues. During his time at the University of Colorado Law School, Ready won numerous awards for his trial advocacy skills. Since being admitted to practice in 2009, Ready has become well-known throughout Denver and the state for the passionate defense of his clients and his unparalleled understanding of the law.