For any couple experiencing a divorce, spousal maintenance is an issue that must be determined. Formerly called “alimony”, spousal maintenance is a monthly amount paid by one spouse to the other for a certain amount of time. When requested, a Court will either grant spousal maintenance, deny spousal maintenance or reserve jurisdiction over the issue if a likely future event might cause the Court to reconsider spousal maintenance.
Colorado law provides specific laws and “guidelines” for a Court to award spousal maintenance. As an initial matter, at the final hearing when the divorce will be declared, a Court must determine the following:
- The amount of each party’s gross income;
(B) The marital property apportioned to each party;
(C) The financial resources of each party, including but not limited to the actual or potential income from separate or marital property;
(D) Reasonable financial need as established during the marriage; and
(E) Whether maintenance awarded pursuant to this section would be deductible for federal income tax purposes by the payor and taxable income to the recipient.
After making this determination, the Court will look to the “guidelines” for the amount that is to be awarded. The “guidelines” are just that—only guidelines. They help the Judge know what might be expected by the Parties but they are not mandatory. The statute, known as 14-10-114, C.R.S., lists the guideline amounts and anyone can look up these guidelines and have an idea of what they may be paying or receiving. However, as these are only guidelines—not specifically mandated amounts to be paid—the actual amount ordered can vary greatly. This is because, by law, the Court must also look to other factors, specifically:
financial resources of the recipient spouse, including the actual or potential
income from separate or marital property or any other source and the ability of
the recipient spouse to meet his or her needs independently;
(II) The financial resources of the payor spouse, including the actual or potential income from separate or marital property or any other source and the ability of the payor spouse to meet his or her reasonable needs while paying maintenance;
(III) The lifestyle during the marriage;
(IV) The distribution of marital property, including whether additional marital property may be awarded to reduce or alleviate the need for maintenance;
(V) Both parties’ income, employment, and employability, obtainable through reasonable diligence and additional training or education, if necessary, and any necessary reduction in employment due to the needs of an unemancipated child of the marriage or the circumstances of the parties;
(VI) Whether one party has historically earned higher or lower income than the income reflected at the time of permanent orders and the duration and consistency of income from overtime or secondary employment;
(VII) The duration of the marriage;
(VIII) The amount of temporary maintenance and the number of months that temporary maintenance was paid to the recipient spouse;
(IX) The age and health of the parties, including consideration of significant health care needs or uninsured or unreimbursed health care expenses;
(X) Significant economic or noneconomic contribution to the marriage or to the economic, educational, or occupational advancement of a party, including but not limited to completing an education or job training, payment by one spouse of the other spouse’s separate debts, or enhancement of the other spouse’s personal or real property;
(XI) Whether the circumstances of the parties at the time of permanent orders warrant the award of a nominal amount of maintenance in order to preserve a claim of maintenance in the future;
(XII) Whether the maintenance is deductible for federal income tax purposes by the payor and taxable income to the recipient, and any adjustments to the amount of maintenance to equitably allocate the tax burden between the parties; and
(XIII) Any other factor that the court deems relevant.
It is not uncommon that marriages result in financial disparity between the Parties as one Party becomes the major breadwinner while the other develops their work life around the family’s or spouse’s needs. If one Party has a greater ability to earn more money in the future because of education or training or work experience, the Court will consider this difference between the Parties. If one Party gained significant education while the other sacrificed a greater income potential for the sake of the family, this will likely be considered.
The best way to predict whether a Court will award spousal maintenance, is to look at the two Sworn Financial Statements of the Parties that shows their monthly needs and the couples’ assets. From the Sworn Financial Statement, a Party’s ability to pay their own monthly bills and the ability of either Party to pay spousal maintenance through their incomes can be evaluated. The most important feature of the Sworn Financial Statement here is that it shows the “needs” of each Party. Needs are generally the monthly amount that is necessary to meet the reasonable bills of the person’s lifestyle. Not everyone is entitled to a lavish lifestyle or one they would hope to live and “reasonable” does not mean excessive or wasteful. However, the Court will try to maintain as close as possible a similar lifestyle for both. So, the Court will look at a person’s needs and what they require each month to meet those needs. Then the Court will ask if this person is able to support themselves independently (without spousal maintenance) based on their reasonable needs as shown on the Sworn Financial Statement. If they cannot and the other spouse has the ability to pay spousal maintenance and meet their own needs, it will likely be ordered.
Go to someone who takes your case seriously and has your family’s best interest in mind. Jeanne M. Wilson’s recent win of the 2019 Colorado Spring’s Style Magazine Top Attorneys award provides enough evidence to show you she is the right local spousal maintenance attorney for you. Give her a call today!