Calculating Alimony in Colorado

Alimony is an important topic of post-divorce discussion. The amount and duration of alimony for spouses will depend on a number of factors and circumstances specific to your case. Keep reading today’s blog post to learn more about what considerations are factored into calculating alimony in Colorado and what the general formula is.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony, or "spousal maintenance” in Colorado, is a payment that a higher-earning spouse makes to the other to ensure the lower-earning spouse isn’t destitute during or after the divorce. Neither spouse is automatically entitled to support, though, and the court must evaluate and calculate the award depending on the facts of each case. Note that the court’s main concern is that the award of support is fair and equitable to both parties and that the requesting spouse can demonstrate a need for maintenance that the other spouse can afford to pay.

Types of Spousal Maintenance

Colorado courts recognize four types of spousal maintenance during and after a divorce – temporary, rehabilitative, reimbursement, and permanent. Temporary support, also called “pendente lite support,” is financial support from one spouse to the other only during the divorce process. Rehabilitative support, on the other hand, is when the higher-earning spouse provides financial assistance to the lower-earning spouse while that spouse acquires essential job skills or career training to enter the workforce and eventually become self-supporting. Rehabilitative support is the most common type of maintenance in Colorado and is common in marriages where one spouse left a career to raise a family.

Reimbursement support is for cases where one spouse paid for the other spouse’s education or job training during the marriage. If the court finds it appropriate, the judge will require the recipient of the education or training funds during the marriage to reimburse the other spouse through spousal maintenance payments.

Courts reserve permanent support for the most extreme divorce cases, where one spouse is unable to become financially independent due to advanced age, illness, disability, or if one spouse is unable to gain employment skills to support themselves. Permanent alimony could continue indefinitely, but it’s rare; the court will usually set an end date for the support.

Factors that Determine Alimony

The court typically only considers spousal maintenance appropriate in marriages lasting more than 3 years. In Colorado, the court will factor in the following when determining eligibility for spousal maintenance:

  • each spouse’s financial resources, including the actual or potential income from separate or marital property;
  • the paying spouse’s ability to meet each spouse’s financial needs;
  • the spouse’s lifestyle during the marriage;
  • the property distribution in the divorce;
  • both parties’ income, employment, and employability, obtainable through reasonable diligence and additional training or education;
  • whether one party has historically earned higher or lower income than the income reflected at the time of the permanent orders;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • the amount and duration of temporary support during the divorce proceedings;
  • each parties’ age and health, including whether either spouse has significant health care needs or uninsured or unreimbursed health care expenses;
  • whether either spouse significantly contributed to the other’s economic, educational, or occupational advancement; and
  • any other factor the court deems relevant.

After the court decides that support is appropriate, the judge must then determine the amount and duration of maintenance. Colorado law offers judges a formula to determine the amount of support, which provides for a monthly payment to the lower earner of 40% of the higher earner’s monthly adjusted gross income minus 50% of the lower earner’s adjusted gross income. For example, if the higher-earning spouse makes $10,000 per month and the lower-earning spouse earns $2,000 per month, and neither makes nor receives payments from another marriage, the maintenance award would be $3,000 ($4,000, which is 40% of $10,000 minus $1,000, which is 50% of $2,000).

Be aware that before applying the formula, the court will take into consideration whether either party makes or receives child support or spousal maintenance payments for children or an ex-spouse outside the current marriage. Additionally, either spouse can request a deviation from the formula for unfairness, though they will need to convince the judge with appropriate reasons.

Parties can agree to the terms of support, including the method and frequency of payments. If the couple can’t agree, though, the court will decide. In most cases, periodic monthly payments are appropriate, where the court will issue an income withholding order that directs the paying spouse’s employer to withhold the award directly from the employee’s paycheck.

Questions about Spousal Maintenance?

If you are currently facing alimony discussions or seek to modify an existing order, it is best to speak with an attorney about your specific case. There are a number of factors that are taken into account when calculating the amount of spousal maintenance due, and such payments have specific termination dates depending on the circumstance.

For more information, contact the Law Office of Alexandra White, P.C. for a free case evaluation today.