On January 1, 2014 Colorado’s spousal “maintenance” law will change from its current form.
What is traditionally known as alimony, in Colorado it is called “maintenance,” or more precisely, the Spousal Maintenance Act. Whatever the terminology, the word has always meant: money that one spouse pays to a former spouse for a period of time after a divorce or separation, either in lump sum or in monthly payments.
In May of this year, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper signed a bill that amends Colorado’s maintenance law. The law on maintenance is not actually new, but more concrete. That is, there are more concrete guidelines courts must now follow in determining maintenance.
Indeed, the legislature amended the law because of inconsistencies between factually similar cases of divorce. The legislature made clear the steps and guidelines of what should be paid to a spouse, if the court determines maintence for one spouse is necessary. The law does not create the presumption that one spouse should receive maintenance, or that the guidelines are to be strictly followed. Rather, the guidelines are to create a more consistent ruling structure throughout Colorado courts.
A few of the guidelines are as follows: (1) for a spouse to receive maintenance, the parties must have been married for at least three years, unless the court finds there are special circumstances where the spouse should receive maintenance, (2) the time frame for how long maintenance must continue is determined by how long the marriage existed, (3) the actual amount calculated cannot exceed based on no more than 40% of the paying spouse’s monthly income.
Generally, the amount paid will be equal to around 40% of the monthly income of the spouse who makes more, minus 50% of the monthly income of the spouse who makes less. Let’s put this in a real world example to show how maintenance may be calculated. Let’s hypothesize that a couple had been married for eight years (96 months), with the wife earning $5000 a month and the husband earning $2000 a month. (The math is therefore: 40% of $5000 = $2000. 50% of $2000 (husband’s earnings) = $1000. $2000 – $1000 = $1000.) Meaning, the wife would pay the husband $1000 in monthly maintenance payments. If the court found maintenance to be necessary for the husband, he could receive maintenance payments for 39 months (3 years and 3 months).
If you find yourself in need of spousal maintenance, or defending against paying spousal maintenance, call our law office to determine your rights. We are here to help.