Spousal Maintenance

In Colorado divorce, separation and annulment cases, one spouse may be able to receive monetary support from the other spouse. This award, known as spousal maintenance, spousal support or alimony, is given to spouses who do not earn sufficient income from working or don’t have the assets needed to support themselves during the legal proceedings.

This state doesn’t automatically give a spouse the right to receive maintenance, even if he or she will truly struggle financially. For these awards, the court will look at many aspects of the situation before a decision is made. There is no set number of years a couple needs to be married for a spouse to receive maintenance. However, longer marriages mean an award is more likely. The guidelines cover marriages that range from three to 20 years, but the court can grant maintenance in a marriage than lasted less than three years. For marriages over 20 years, the court may award the maintenance for a longer period or an indefinite amount of time.

This award can be temporary or permanent, with the maintenance continuing until one of the parties passes away or the person receiving support gets remarried.

 

Spousal support calculation

The court can order temporary spousal support, usually throughout the legal proceedings until the final order of divorce or legal separation is issued, or something more permanent. For this award, there is a formula set out in state laws that the court will use. When couples make under $240,000 combined in gross income per year, the support awarded is 40 percent of what the paying spouse makes minus 50 percent of the recipient spouse’s income. If, for example, a paying wife makes $8,000 each month and her receiving husband is making $1,000 each month, the temporary maintenance under the formula would be $2,700 every month unless there are some special circumstances in the case.

Keep in mind that for spouses who are high-earners, this formula does not apply in maintenance cases. If you and your spouse make over $240,000 annually, the court will weigh the factors covered below. Naturally, this makes the proceedings unpredictable, so it’s recommended you have an experienced attorney if you have high income and/or substantial assets in your case.

 

Spousal support factors

The court will also weigh the factors outlined in Colorado’s laws when considering maintenance cases. Of course, the financial circumstances of the recipient spouse and the paying spouse – including which assets they will receive in the divorce – are considered, along with the couple’s previous living standard and the duration of the marriage. The court will also look at the age and physical and mental condition of the recipient spouse, his or her ability to earn in the future, and how much time he or she would need to finish education or training to get better employment.

In many marriages, it’s common for one spouse to be earning less and also working less than the other spouse. He or she could be a stay-at-home parent or work part-time so the household is looked after. It’s this type of situation that makes spousal support awards more complicated because the court must decide if it should impute income to that lower-earning spouse. Income imputing occurs when the court assigns earnings to the recipient spouse that he or she is not actually making based on an estimate of his or her earning ability. To impute income, the court may do a vocational assessment on the recipient spouse, which can drag out the proceedings and lead to disputes. If imputed income is a factor in your case, having experienced legal representation during the proceedings will make a difference.

The idea behind most spousal support awards is that it’s meant to support a spouse until he or she can become financially independent. Many orders have a termination date, and when the date arrives, the alimony ends unless the recipient spouse has taken the paying spouse back to court and received another order or a modification. If one spouse passes away, however, spousal support automatically terminates, and the same applies if the recipient spouse remarries.

 

Tax implications

The spouse receiving alimony is the person responsible for paying taxes on it, not the paying party. The spouse who is paying may be able to deduct premiums of any life insurance policies ordered by the court or the award itself on his or her taxes, depending on his or her personal tax situation.

Spousal support order will impact on your finances immediately and potentially in the future, so it pays to have legal representation on your side when it comes to maintenance awards.If you think you will receive or pay spousal support as part of your Colorado family law case, contact the experienced and trusted team at The Burnham Law Firm about your case.