The rumors circulating in the Denver Colorado family law community regarding alimony/maintenance, mentioned by us in early 2013 blog postings, have now become reality. Starting January 1, 2014, Colorado will be following new “maintenance” guidelines as set forth in Colorado’s House Bill 13-1058, which was signed into law this past May. “Maintenance” has also been called alimony in the past and in other jurisdictions. It is money one spouse pays to a former spouse every month for a period after a divorce or formal separation.
In the recent past, in Colorado, courts have tended to disfavor maintenance except where circumstances are especially compelling. This included scenarios such as when a lower-earning spouse needs to attend school or training to be able to support themselves or where a former spouse has a physical condition that impairs his or her ability to work or where one party has to take care of an infant or toddler.
Those who may have been concerned about this new law can rest assured that most of the law is not truly “new.” Rather, many of the factors outlined in the new law were previously left up to an individual judge’s discretion and this sometimes led to inconsistent results in factually similar scenarios. What is new is that the Spousal Maintenance Act offers a concrete formula to calculate maintenance and detailed guidelines for the court to implement in determining the amount of maintenance and the term.
With the new statute, there is no presumption that a spouse receives maintenance. Rather, the court must review the parties’ financial situations post-divorce and make specific findings regarding their income and property, as well as their reasonable financial need.
In determining maintenance, the new law requires the court to make initial findings about each of the parties’ gross annual income, the division of marital property, and reasonable financial need as established during the marriage. It also permits the court to award maintenance in a fair and equitable way without regard to marital misconduct. The court will next consider the guidelines. Most of these intricate guidelines are based on the length of the marriage and the combined gross incomes of the divorcing couple.
For example, if the parties were married for three years and their combined adjusted gross income is not more than the greater of either $240,000 or the upper limit of existing child support obligations, the court is require to make additional findings about the duration of marriage and calculate the amount of maintenance as 40% of the income of the higher earning spouse’s monthly adjusted gross income minus fifty percent of the lower earning spouse’s monthly adjusted income. The recipient should not receive more than 40% of the parties’ combined monthly adjusted gross income.
The court is also required to consider the recipient’s ability to support him or herself, the recipient’s actual or potential income from any source, and the lifestyle during the marriage, plus the parties’ historical earnings, among other variables.
Also of note, the new law requires that for an agreement waiving maintenance or agreeing to maintenance that deviates from the guidelines in the new law to be valid, both parties must be represented by an attorney, or else the unrepresented party must indicate awareness of the guidelines.
If you are considering divorce, a knowledgeable family law attorney can help you figure out what the new maintenance law may mean for you. Contact the experienced Denver family law attorneys at Plog & Stein.