One of the first questions divorcing people ask is how will they support themselves financially during the divorce process and after the divorce is finalized. Anyone who sacrificed pursuing a career or attending higher education to focus on their family or marriage, or is the lower earning spouse, will certainly feel the stress. However, financial assistance in the form of maintenance is often available.
Maintenance, also referred to as "alimony" or "spousal support", is money paid from one spouse to the other while the divorce is pending and/or after it has been finalized. Maintenance is not guaranteed in Colorado, but there are several factors that can make it a possibility for those who need it.
Arguing for maintenance is a complex matter. In Colorado, under C.R.S. 14-10-114, a guideline concerning spousal support is stated whereby 50% of the lower earner's gross income is subtracted from 40% of the higher earner's gross income to determine the presumed amount of maintenance that should be paid. The duration of maintenance is determined by the length of the parties' marriage. However, this is only a guideline for the Court to follow, and the Court is not obligated to follow the guideline. The aid of a skilled divorce attorney will be vital to achieving the results you need. An experienced divorce lawyer will know the intricacies of the law and will work with you to develop a strategy that advocates for your current and future needs.
How the court determines maintenance
The Court will look at several factors in accordance with C.R.S. 14-10-114 when determining the amount and duration of maintenance, including:
- How much money each spouse makes
- The amount of marital property each spouse will receive
- The financial resources available to each party
- Each spouse's reasonable financial needs
- How federal tax will affect maintenance awarded
In most instances, if a marriage lasted at least three years and the spouses' combined incomes do not exceed $240,000, the Court will use the algorithm referenced above to determine the amount and duration of maintenance.
Resources like a maintenance calculator may be a useful way to estimate potential support payments. Remember that these are only estimates, though. The Court will consider several other factors which may affect the amount and term of maintenance, including each spouse's:
- Lifestyle during the marriage
- Employability: is either spouse voluntarily unemployed or underemployed
- Age and health factors
- Economic and non-economic contributions: for example, if one spouse has taken a greater share of the domestic responsibilities for the duration of the marriage
These are only examples; the reality is that the Court may consider any factor it deems relevant. This means that a sound argument can have a major effect on the amount of maintenance a person receives.
Nobody should live in fear of not having the financial resources he or she needs during the divorce process or after the divorce has been finalized. If you are facing that strain, do not hesitate to determine whether or not you are a candidate for an award of maintenance. It could be the extra buoy you need to stay above water long enough to get back on your feet.