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Colorado Spousal Maintenance

What used to be known as “alimony” in Colorado is now called “maintenance.” As opposed to child support – which is a payment from one parent for the purposes of assisting the child – maintenance is a payment from one spouse to another. People often assume that they are automatically entitled to maintenance by virtue of being in a marriage. The reality is a great deal more complicated. Moreover, unlike what many people believe, maintenance does not necessarily have to go from the man to the woman; it could go from the woman to the man in the marriage. Regardless of who pays whom, the person seeking maintenance should do so in the initial petition for legal separation or divorce.

The longest form of maintenance is permanent maintenance, which is difficult to receive. It’s generally used when one spouse has been the primary income generator, the other party has not worked at all or has worked for a short time, the marriage was long, and the spouses are older. Another form of maintenance is rehabilitative maintenance, which is used to assist a former spouse for a period of time until that spouse can become financially independent. Such maintenance is meant to boost earning capacity or supplement earnings until the former spouse’s income is sufficient without maintenance. Former spouses often will use the period of rehabilitative maintenance to get additional training and/or education.

What’s most common when maintenance is awarded is temporary maintenance. The most important factor in such a case depends on whether the combined adjusted gross income of both spouses is above or below $75,000. If the combined annual gross income is $75,000 or less, the court will take 40 percent of the higher-income party’s monthly adjusted gross income, minus 50 percent of the lower-income party’s monthly adjusted gross income. If the remainder is zero or a negative number, then the lower-income party will get nothing. If the remainder is a positive number, that is what the lower-income party will get monthly.

If the combined annual income is above $75,000, then maintenance becomes much more complicated. According to C.R.S.14-10-114(3), in cases where combined income is above $75,000, the court may grant temporary maintenance if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance: (a) lack sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs; and (b) is unable to support himself or herself through employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.

According to C.R.S. 14-10-114(4), a court deciding upon temporary maintenance must look at the following factors:

  1. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property given to the party, and the party’s ability to meet their needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party;
  2. The time necessary to acquire education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find employment and that party’s future earning capacity;
  3. The standing of living established during the marriage;
  4. The duration of the marriage;
  5. The age and the physical/emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; and
  6. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.

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