Different Types of Spousal Support
Spousal support is one of the most contested aspects of divorce. While many parents expect to pay child support, for some, it can be a shock when they are ordered to pay spousal support, especially if they think that amount or term is unreasonable. In Colorado, there are four types of spousal support: temporary, reimbursement, rehabilitative, and permanent. Each type has a different aim, and the circumstances of your marriage will determine which type, if any, is awarded in your case.
Spousal support overview:
- Temporary: awarded while the divorce process is still ongoing
- Reimbursement: awarded in cases where one spouse paid for the vocational training or education of the other spouse
- Rehabilitative: awarded in cases where one spouse needs assistance getting back on their feet and designed to help them become financially self-sufficient down the road
- Permanent: awarded in cases where the spouse granted the award is not expected to achieve financial self-sufficiency
Understanding how spousal support is decided and awarded can be confusing for many people, especially because it is so dependent on the particular circumstances of the marriage. Below we review some commonly asked questions about spousal support and dispel some frequent misconceptions.
Is Spousal Support Automatic?
Spousal maintenance awards are very common in Colorado divorces, but it is not automatically awarded in all cases. Spousal support is determined holistically by looking at the couple’s financial situation, earning capacity, and property division settlement. The courts may also consider special circumstances, the health of both parties, child-rearing responsibilities, tax liability, and the couple’s standard of living while married.
When a couple has been married for at least three years but no more than 20, the courts use a regularized system to calculate the support amount and the duration for which it must be paid. You can view the spousal support calculation parameters here.
Do the Courts Privilege Wives Over Husbands When Awarding Support?
This is a common misconception when it comes to spousal support. Many people erroneously believe that women are given preference over men when spousal support is awarded. This is not the case. Typically, the higher-earning individual is the one who will have to pay support to the lower-earning individual.
This myth likely developed due to the reality that women are more likely to give up their careers to stay home and take care of the household and children. Additionally, women in the workforce tend to make less than men, meaning that in many relationships, the wife is the lower-earning individual. However, as times change, more and more women are the breadwinners in their households, and consequently, you are starting to see more women being ordered to pay spousal support to their ex-husbands.
What is important to remember when it comes to spousal support is that the court’s aim is to render a fair and equitable judgment given the unique circumstances of the couple’s marriage.
Can Spousal Support Amounts Be Changed?
Like child support, spousal support orders can be modified later if needed. When assessing modification petitions, the courts will examine whether the reason for the modification is significant and lasting enough to warrant the change.
Common reasons a spousal support order may need to be modified include:
- The spouse ordered to pay has lost their job or suffered a significant decrease in their income
- The spouse ordered to pay has had more children or has new dependents to provide for
- The spouse receiving support’s financial situation has changed
- The spouse receiving support has remarried
If you are unable to make spousal support payments, it is crucial that you reach out to a knowledgeable lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you identify your legal options and, should it be necessary, help you file a petition for a spousal support modification. You should never just stop paying spousal support, even if your former spouse says it is okay. This can lead to being found in contempt and may result in the courts taking enforcement action against you.
Turn to Our Law Firm for Guidance on Spousal Support Issues
As you can see, spousal support can be a complicated topic. With real legal consequences associated with not complying with a spousal support order, it is incredibly important that if you are ordered to pay your former spouse maintenance, you ensure you fully understand what that order entails and comply with it. Therefore, if you have any questions about spousal support, no matter where you are in the divorce process, you should consult with a lawyer right away.
At the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C., we have been helping Colorado Springs residents deal with all manner of spousal support issues, from helping negotiate an initial support agreement to processing modifications with the courts. When our clients need help, we are just a phone call away. We are prepared to help you, too. Give our law firm a call or send us a message online to discuss your case.