What to know about Spousal Maintenance

Upon divorce or legal separation in Colorado, the court may award spousal maintenance in your case. This is a financial award that one spouse pays over to another spouse who doesn’t make enough money or have enough assets to support himself or herself in the wake of the action. Also known as alimony and spousal support, this award will have an impact on your finances whether you are the person paying it or receiving it, so here’s what you should know about this court-ordered financial obligation.

It’s not automatically granted

Unlike child support, state laws do not give a person an automatic right to spousal support, even if he or she really needs it and is destitute without the other spouse’s income. For spousal support awards, the court will weigh many factors before deciding whether it should be granted in your case.

Length of the marriage matters

Colorado laws do not specify that a couple needs to be married for a specific number of years for alimony to be a part of their case. The guidelines do cover from three to 20 years, but the court can award it in cases when the marriage lasted less than three years at its discretion, depending on the situation. Spouses married for at least two decades, however, are more likely to have alimony awarded in their cases.

It can be temporary or “permanent”

Temporary spousal support is ordered during the divorce proceedings and is paid until the final court order is issued and potentially beyond that. For couples who are making less than $240,000 a year, the court will use a simple formula to set the award amount unless circumstances dictate otherwise. This formula is 40 percent of what the paying spouse is making with half of the receiving spouse’s income deducted from it. Keep in mind that for high-asset couples making over $240,000 a year, this formula does not apply. This can make matters unpredictable, so it’s best to have an experienced attorney by your side if you have a lot of assets.

This type of support is usually meant to help a spouse until they can care for themselves, so it usually has a set end date. The court will consider factors like how long it will take the receiving spouse to receive the education or training he or she needs to get a good job when deciding the support length. If the marriage lasted between three and 20 years, there are guidelines used to determine support length. “Permanent” alimony, although not common, is sometimes awarded by the court. This is something that is usually paid only until a certain milestone is reached, such as the receiving spouse remarrying or the paying spouse reaching retirement age. The death of either spouse also usually ends spousal support, unless the order states otherwise.

If your spousal support award has an end date, it automatically terminates on that date unless either spouse has returned to court since it was ordered and had it modified. Spousal support can be modified after it is ordered if the circumstances have changed substantially.

The court can estimate income

One spouse may be earning less because he or she was a stay-at-home parent or spouse, so the court has the right to estimate his or her income for the purposes of calculating spousal support. Known as “imputing,” this involves the court assigning the lower-earning spouse income based on what it believes his or her earning capacity would be with a full-time job. To do this, the court may have to perform an assessment of his or her employment skills, and this can drag out the proceedings and lead to disputes. If you think income imputing is going to be a part of your case, talk to an experienced spousal support attorney at The Burnham Law Firm today.

There are tax consequences

Spousal support is not treated the same way as child support for tax purposes. The recipient of spousal support is the one who must include it on their tax returns and pay any taxes that are due. The spouse who is paying this award may be able to deduct it on his or her taxes, depending on his or her tax situation, and he or she may also be able to deduct premiums paid on court-ordered life insurance policies. Speak to an experienced tax professional about the consequences of spousal support if you’re not sure how it will affect your income taxes.

Spousal support, whether you are the payer or the payee, is a part of your financial picture as soon as it is ordered and for the foreseeable future. Therefore, you should have experienced legal representation on your side for your spousal support case. Contact the experiencedand aggressive team of professionals here at The Burnham Law Firm today.