As experienced divorce attorneys in Denver, the lawyers at Plog & Stein, P.C, have seen, over the years, various changes to the law related to many aspects of both divorce and custody statute. From time to time, the state legislature, with some input from the bar association (not always listened to), decides to make changes to the existing body of work that encompasses what I will call the family law statutes. This has included simple changes, such as adjusted child support guideline amounts to reflect changes in economic trends, or changes to the timing of the filing of certain pleadings or documents in a court case.
However, from time to time, there are also sweeping, and radical changes which ultimately get enacted into law. Pending before the legislature is a bill, which if passed, stands to radically change the way courts assess maintenance, or alimony, in Colorado divorce cases. Again, at this stage, it is only a proposal. That being said, the rumors among learned and seasoned family law attorneys, and some judges, is that the bill will likely be passed, with the new provisions taking effect for Colorado divorce cases filed after January 1, 2014. The specific bill is House Bill 13-1058, and must still meet both state senate and the Governor's approval before becoming law. Again, the prevailing rumor right now is that this will happen. The question then becomes how does this affect you, the litigant in a Colorado divorce?
Alimony, or maintenance, stems from C.R.S. 14-10-114 and is essentially court ordered spousal support to be paid from one spouse to another. Factors going into an award of maintenance include incomes, financial needs, length of the marriage, time for one spouse to attain financial self sufficiency, etc. Maintenance in divorce cases has always been somewhat of a gray area or subject. Unlike child support, there has been no guideline or formula. Thus, how much maintenance and for how long has always been up to a judge's discretion. Discretion can vary from judge to judge and court to court.
This posting is not intended to weigh in on whether the proposed changes are good or bad, but rather to identify the significant proposals and potential effects upon the practice of divorce and alimony law under Colorado statute. From a cursory reading of the Bill, it appears that the significant changes coming are as follows:
1. GUIDELINE AMOUNT: As with child support, the proposed new legislation sets forth a formula related to how much alimony should be paid, and a time table for suggested appropriate lengths for the payment of it. A cursory read of the bill seems to indicate that the temporary maintenance formula set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-115 regarding 40% of the higher earner's income minus 50% of the lower earner's income will be applied to awarding maintenance at a final or "permanent orders" hearing. However, unlike the child support statute, the Bill indicates that the guidelines are not mandatory and are not a "presumption." At the same time, the Bill seems to indicate that a court must consider the guidelines and set forth specific reasons for its ruling should it differ from such. Language set forth in the draft indicates that primary purposes of the proposed guidelines are to enhance "predicatability" in alimony cases, which in theory will then promote settlement.