By John H. BohlenDomestic Relations Attorney
The Gasper Law Group, PLLC
In Colorado divorce cases the judge or magistrate will determine whether alimony (which is called "spousal maintenance" in Colorado) should be awarded to you or your spouse, assuming it was requested by a party. It is important for you to understand the impact that alimony may potentially have in your case.
Alimony is intended to assist a spouse who lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs, and is “unable to support himself/herself through employment according to the Court. Alimony must be specifically requested by a party before the Court will award it. For example, if no request for alimony is made at the final hearing, then the Court will ensure that the parties understand that once waived, the right to receive alimony may never again be reasserted.
Generally, the longer the marriage, the more likely the court is to award alimony in your case. However, it is important to remember that there are always exceptions, every case is different, and there are a number of factors to consider; this is not necessarily a given. Your case may involve unique circumstances. Though there is no set standard, spouses married just a couple of years do not often receive maintenance upon divorce in Colorado. If the marriage was long enough (typically at least 20-25 years or more), the Colorado divorce judge may even award one spouse lifetime alimony, depending on the other factors involved such as the age of the parties, employment history, education, and the ability of each to work outside the home. Maintenance in Colorado is terminated by the death of either party, or the remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony. Cohabitation with a new significant other does not terminate the maintenance obligation under Colorado law.
WHAT IF MY SPOUSE REQUESTS THE JUDGE TO ORDER ALIMONY WHILE THE DIVORCE CASE IS PENDING?
This is called “temporary spousal maintenance.” Your spouse is not required to request this, however, and it will not be addressed by the Court unless someone requests that the Court enter orders addressing the issue. There is a presumed level of temporary alimony in Colorado, in cases where a couple's combined gross annual income is equal to or less than $75,000. If you and your spouse’s gross yearly incomes added together equal $75,000 per year or less, then it is likely that at a temporary orders hearing the Colorado family law magistrate will apply a mandatory formula and award maintenance equal to 40% of the higher income earner's gross monthly income minus 50% of the lower income earner's gross monthly income. This statutory formula, which can be draconian, is required to be applied by the judges and magistrates, who cannot exercise discretion to change what they have been mandated to do.
Under those circumstances, this Colorado alimony formula applies regardless of the length of the marriage. C.R.S. 14-10- 114(4) requires that maintenance be determined "without regard to marital misconduct.” It does not matter if a spouse committed adultery or other moral or wrongdoing; the Court generally must order a maintenance amount based on the above formula (on a temporary basis only.) In other words, if your spouse cheated on you and ended the marriage, it will be irrelevant to the Court regarding maintenance. Your attorney cannot present an argument to the court that, since your wife cheated on you with five different men and is now living with her new boyfriend, you should somehow not have to pay spousal support to her because of that moral wrongdoing. Another painful example: even if you were only married for a few months, it does not prevent the other spouse from requesting temporary maintenance pursuant to the formula, even though the spouse will almost certainly not get any maintenance when the divorce is final.
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Colorado Alimony (Spousal Maintenance)