Q. What is alimony/maintenance?
A. Colorado does not use the term "alimony." In Colorado, alimony (spousal support) is called "maintenance." The purpose of maintenance is to transfer income from the higher or sole earning spouse to the lower or non-earning spouse so that both parties can financially sustain themselves during and after the end of their marriage.
Q. Who is entitled to maintenance?
A. The Court will award maintenance if it finds that the party seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs and the party seeking maintenance is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment or is caring for a child whose condition or circumstances make it inappropriate for that spouse to be employed outside of the home.
Q. Will I be awarded temporary maintenance prior to my divorce being finalized?
A. There is a presumed level of temporary maintenance in Colorado, in cases where a couple's combined gross annual income is under $75,000. The presumed maintenance amount for temporary orders is 40% of the higher income earner's gross monthly income minus 50% of the lower income earner's gross monthly income, regardless of the length of the marriage.
Example: Sam earns $3,000 per month, and Pat earns $2,000 per month. Sam's presumptive temporary maintenance payment will be $200 ($1,200 - $1,000) per month, until the permanent orders hearing.
For couples where the combined gross annual income exceeds $75,000, there is no set standard for temporary alimony in Colorado, and instead the courts are supposed to utilize the factors set out for post-dissolution maintenance (see section below). Note that this creates less predictability - while some Colorado divorce magistrates may use the 40% minus 50% formula as a starting point, other magistrates will disregard it altogether.
Q. My spouse and I have only been married a short time. Will I receive maintenance?
A. You may receive temporary maintenance during the pendency of your action and you may receive a small amount at permanent orders if all of the statutory criteria is met.
Q. Is there a general rule when determining maintenance?
A. There is not a general rule in determining maintenance and historically, the amount and the duration has varied from county to county, and even from judge to judge. In order to streamline maintenance and make it more predictable, as of January 1, 2014, Colorado law provides courts with discretionary guidelines for determining the amount and term of maintenance payments based on the incomes of the spouses and the length of the marriage. The guidelines are only applied in cases where the parties' combined annual income is less than $300,000 per year and the length of the marriage is greater than three years but less than 20 years. Under the guidelines, the amount of maintenance is equal to forty percent of the higher income party’s adjusted monthly gross income less fifty percent of the lower income party’s adjusted gross income. After this calculation, the recipient's total monthly income, including maintenance, cannot exceed 40% of the total combined monthly adjusted gross income of both parties.
Q. Can maintenance be modified or terminated?
A. Unless you and your spouse have agreed to contractual maintenance, the short answer is yes. In order to modify maintenance, you must show a change of circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the existing order unfair.
Q. What are the tax consequences of maintenance?
A. Maintenance is considered to be taxable income to the person receiving it and a deduction for the party paying maintenance.
This information is not to be interpreted as providing legal services, nor as proposing any form of legal advice. Answers for these questions are general guidelines only and vary depending on a person's circumstances. By providing this general information, no attorney-client privilege is established. If you are uncertain about your legal rights, you should consider consulting with a qualified attorney. Specific questions should be directed to Kama McConaughy Sarkissian at (303) 649-0999.
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