How Is Spousal Support Determined in Colorado?
In Colorado, after a divorce, the courts may award one spouse spousal support (also called spousal maintenance or alimony). Typically, when spousal support is granted, the spouse who has the higher income is the one who must pay maintenance to the other spouse.
There are several types of spousal support in Colorado:
- Temporary (typically awarded while the divorce is in process)
- Rehabilitative (designed to help a spouse post-divorce as they work to become financially independent)
- Reimbursement (awarded in cases where one spouse paid for the other spouse’s education or other training during the marriage)
- Permanent (very rarely granted and most often in cases where one spouse is unable to become financially independent)
Though spousal support is often awarded in Colorado divorce cases, it is not automatic. Additionally, the courts do not privilege one spouse over the other. For example, the idea that a wife will automatically be awarded spousal support is a myth. Instead, the courts rely on legal guidelines to determine if support should be awarded, and when it is, they use a calculation based on the adjusted gross incomes of both parties.
Factors Considered By the Court When Awarding Alimony
When making spousal support determinations, the courts consider a wide range of factors. These factors include each party’s gross income, the couple’s property division settlement, each party’s financial resources (including potential income), reasonable financial need, and the tax implications of an alimony award. The court may also consider the standard of living the spouses enjoyed while married, the age and health of each party, and the education level of each spouse.
If it is determined that alimony should be granted, the courts will then work to calculate an amount that is fair and equitable to both parties.
Does the Length of My Marriage Matter?
In Colorado, the length of a couple’s marriage does factor into how spousal support is calculated. In cases where the spouses were married for at least three years but no more than 20 years and their adjusted gross income does not exceed $240,000, the courts will award a certain percentage of the adjusted gross income based on the duration of the marriage in whole months (in the table below, for ease of reading, we have converted whole months into years and months).
The impact of marriage duration on alimony calculations is as follows:
- 3 years: 31% 11 months
- 5 years: 35% for 1 year, 9 months
- 10 years: 45% for 4 years, 6 months
- 15 years: 50% for 7 years, 6 months
- 20 years: 50% for 10 years
In cases where the couple was married for more than 20 years, the courts may award spousal support for either a specified term or indefinitely. However, if the court chooses to award alimony for a fixed period, that term cannot be less than the term awarded for a 20-year marriage.
For the full alimony award schedule, review Colorado Revised Statutes Title 14. Domestic Matters § 14-10-114.
What Power Do the Spouses Have in Deciding Support
Generally speaking, spousal support is left up to the courts to decide, and as previously mentioned, they rely on a formula to make decisions. However, this does not mean the spouses are without agency during this process. For example, the spouses may agree to waive maintenance either in court when their divorce is being processed or in a prenuptial or marital agreement. However, the courts may reject their decision to waive support if they find the agreement unfair. Additionally, the spouses may decide on some of the terms of support, such as how payments will be made and how often (most choose monthly payments).
Do you have questions about spousal support in Colorado? Reach out to the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C. for guidance.