Colorado is an alimony-friendly state. So, if you’re thinking of filing a divorce or have begun the process, it’s crucial to take some time to understand how the state’s alimony laws could affect you.
Knowing your rights can make a tremendous difference for you now, and in the future. Here at Brighter Day Law, we’re ready to help you understand and deal with alimony in Colorado. Contact us today to speak with an experienced family law attorney regarding legal matters like divorce, child custody, alimony, and more.
What Is Alimony?
The state of Colorado also refers to alimony as “spousal maintenance.” Alimony is the payment a higher-earning spouse makes to ensure the lower-earning spouse isn’t destitute during or after the divorce process. Neither spouse is entitled to support automatically. Unless both parties agree, then the court evaluates and calculates the award depending on the facts of each case.
Many people assume that alimony is only awarded to the ex-wife. That’s not true. Also, the assumption that a maintenance award is mandatory after a marriage of a certain period or that it’s automatic isn’t true. Either party can seek alimony in the divorce proceedings, and there’s no absolute entitlement to an award.
What Laws Say About Alimony in Colorado
In the state of Colorado, alimony is awarded in situations where it’s deemed appropriate by the court, or situations in which “a spouse needs support and the other spouse can pay.” Thus, a court cannot award alimony to one spouse on the grounds of marital misconduct alone. Instead, the court awards alimony if it deems that the financial circumstances of the marriage and its dissolution warrant an alimony award.
Thus, a family law judge determines whether alimony is appropriate and, if so, how much and for how long. C.R.S. 14-10-114 states for alimony to be awarded, one party must make a request. Then, a family law judge considers several factors and decides whether spousal maintenance is appropriate. These factors include:
- Gross income of each spouse
- Marital property.
- Financial resources of each spouse.
- Reasonable financial expenses as established during the marriage.
- Length of the marriage.
Once the court deems that spousal maintenance is appropriate, then it determines the amount and length of alimony based on the following formula:
- The amount of alimony is equal to 40% of the higher-income party’s monthly adjusted gross income, minus 50% of the lower-income party’s monthly adjusted gross income. For example, if the higher-earning party has an adjusted gross income of $10,000 per month and the lower-earning party has an adjusted gross income of $5,000 per month, then the court will take 40% of $10,000 or $4,000 and subtract 50% of $5,000 or $2500, making the alimony award $1,500 per month.
- The length of spousal maintenance is based on the number of months of marriage. According to C.R.S 14-10-114, this ranges from 11 months for a marriage that lasts three years to 10 years for a marriage that lasts 20 years. If a marriage lasts longer than 20 years, it’s the jurisdiction of the court to decide how much and how long alimony will be awarded. With long-term marriages, sometimes alimony can be awarded for life, and can only rescind upon death or remarriage.
You need to have been married at least three years to be eligible for spousal maintenance. If, for example, the higher income party grosses $50,000 per month while the lower earner grosses $5,000, then that person is eligible for up to $17,500 in monthly support.
However, this formula doesn’t take into account that every court runs differently, and what you think will happen may not happen.
What Are the Types of Alimony?
Primarily, there are two types of spousal maintenance, which include statutory maintenance and contractual and non-modifiable maintenance.
A family law judge can only award statutory maintenance, this includes temporary maintenance before the divorce is finalized.
Only divorcing parties can agree upon contractual and non-modifiable maintenance.
Generally, statutory maintenance is awarded at the court hearing when a judge gives permanent orders and dissolves the marriage. However, alimony can also be awarded once a couple separates legally.
The Colorado statute states that the spousal support term should be a percentage of the length of the marriage. This means, on the lower end of the spectrum, someone could receive spousal maintenance for less than a year. And on the opposite end, someone could also receive spousal maintenance for ten years.
The spousal maintenance term chart addresses marriages between three and 20 years. So, if you and your spouse have only been married for three years, you’re eligible for alimony for 11 months, or 31% of the marriage. Thus, the longer you’re married, the longer the suggested maintenance term.
The term percentage increases the longer you have been married. So, for example, if you’ve been married for 7 and a half years, the state of Colorado suggests alimony for 40% of that time.
The Colorado statute caps suggested alimony term at 50% of the marriage. After you’ve been for 12 and a half years, the suggested alimony is 50% of the length of the marriage. So, if you’ve been married for 20 years, you will receive or pay alimony for 10 years.
Contractual and Non-Modifiable Maintenance
Most of the time, couples who opt for a D-I-Y divorce end up with non-modifiable maintenance. Because they’re doing the paperwork themselves and might not realize what they’re agreeing to.
So, if you and your spouse opt for a D-I-Y divorce, you must understand that non-modifiable truly means non-modifiable. If a couple opts for contractual and non-modifiable spousal maintenance, a court of law can’t amend the spousal maintenance agreement, even though it’s unfair to one party.
You might wonder why anyone would opt for contractual and non-modifiable spousal support. Well, believe it or not, this type of maintenance arrangement can be a perfect choice for some individuals.
Contact an attorney to discuss your options. A family law attorney can tell you whether a non-modifiable arrangement is right for you. They may advise you to include some clauses in the agreement, including a remarriage clause to stop spouse maintenance support if the recipient remarries.
What Are The Requirements For Spousal Maintenance Support?
Spousal maintenance support payments must be in cash, and they’re also acceptable in a check or money order. However, support payments can’t be given in the form of debts, services, or property.
Any support payments must be set forth within divorce papers or agreements. The payments must be formal, this means you can’t call what you’ve been paying informally in terms of support to your former spouse anything else.
If you file a joint tax return with your former spouse, you can’t claim spousal maintenance as a tax reduction for that year.
You can’t live with your ex-spouse and say any support you give them is alimony. You and your spouse can’t live in separate quarters within the same residence, you must have separate quarters with different routes.
If you’re claiming the alimony as a deduction, you must stop the support payments and stop claiming the tax-deduction if the spouse receiving alimony dies.
What If We Have Children?
Spousal maintenance can be, by agreement of the parties, contractual and non-modifiable. But, if a judge orders alimony, it’s always subject to change based on substantial circumstances to make the award unconscionable.
When alimony is awarded in cases where there are children, it’s considered income of the receiving party, and it influences child support calculations. In this case, higher income for the receiving party results in lower child support.
Also, alimony is taxable to the receiving party and tax deductible for the payor, while child support is non-taxable to the receiving party and offers no tax benefit for the payor.
The legal team at Brighter Day Law has extensive experience with all of the complex legal issues that divorcing couples may face, and we are ready to provide you the legal counsel you need during this challenging time
What If I Have Cheated or My Spouse Has Cheated On Me?
Marriage misconduct means different things to different people. If you’re not a lawyer, misconduct could mean infidelity, criminal action, or emotional and psychological abuse.
Common questions about alimony and marriage misconduct include:
- Can alimony change because of marital misconduct?
- If I’ve cheated on my spouse will I get alimony?
- Do I have to pay more alimony if my spouse cheated?
The Colorado statute states that the amount and duration of spousal maintenance should be considered “without regard to marital misconduct.” This is consistent with provisions throughout the domestic relations statutory scheme. Also, it applies to both parties. Thus, if your spouse is cheating on you, that alone isn’t grounds, nor is it a factor in an alimony case.
What if your spouse was cheating on you and they depleted the marital property? What if your spouse goes to jail and now has reduced living expenses? Colorado courts hold that marital misconduct may take into account the economic circumstances arising from a spouse’s marital misconduct. This includes depletion of the marital estate and reduction of a spouse’s financial needs and ability to meet living expenses.
Contact an Alimony Attorney Today!
If you’re considering separation, divorce, or an annulment, you owe it yourself to contact the professionals at Brighter Day Law. Our talented team of family law attorneys knows what to expect, and we’ll help you through this emotionally draining situation. We have extensive experience helping clients across Colorado. We know the Colorado legal system, inside and out, and we’ll help you get the best possible outcome.
Call us today at (719) 225-4443, or chat with us online and schedule a free consultation!