Will I Need to Pay Alimony or Spousal Support in a Colorado Divorce?  Colorado Spousal Maintenance Laws

In Colorado, spousal maintenance (formerly called “alimony” or “spousal support”) consists of payments from one spouse to another, which can be ordered during the process of a divorce, and/or after the divorce is finalized.

When a couple is divorcing, one of the commonly-asked questions is whether alimony / spousal support / maintenance will need to be paid (or may be received).  This page answers frequently-asked questions about spousal maintenance payments in Colorado.

What is the Purpose of Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is designed to be temporary financial support made by one divorcing spouse to the other spouse while the receiving spouse becomes self-sufficient and capable of earning a living.  In some cases, no maintenance may be ordered, as both spouses may be capable of providing for themselves.  In other cases, such as when one spouse may have left the workforce for decades to raise a family, the spouse may not realistically be able to re-enter the workforce quickly as the result of a lack of marketable job skills, or perhaps health issues or other factors.

Colorado Guidelines for Spousal Support and Maintenance

Colorado law provides guidelines to courts concerning when maintenance should be ordered, the amount of maintenance, and the time period for which maintenance should last.   In general, the “baseline” guidelines for determining the monthly amount of support and the number of months that support should be provided are based on the current earnings of each of the spouses and how long a couple has been married.  In addition to these guidelines and instruction, however, Colorado courts are also provided with a significant amount discretion to consider a wide variety of factors in determining maintenance awards.

As a result, if you are facing payment of maintenance, or if you are seeking maintenance, it will be in your interest to seek an experienced Colorado maintenance lawyer to best make your case.  As a veteran trial lawyer, my role is to help you make your case in seeking the best outcome possible for you given the law and the circumstances of you and your soon to be ex-spouse.

When Must Colorado Courts Consider Maintenance?

In Colorado, if a couple’s marriage lasted at least three years and the couple’s adjusted gross income did not exceed $240,000, (or the uppermost limits of the schedule of basic child support obligations set forth in § 14-10-115), then Colorado courts are required to make a finding concerning the couple’s length of marriage and the “guideline term of maintenance” (which is discussed below).[1]   This provision does not prevent courts from considering (or awarding) maintenance in other situations; but rather requires courts to consider maintenance under these conditions.

How is Maintenance Determined in Colorado?

Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) § 14-10-114(3)(b) sets forth guidelines concerning the amount and length of time for which maintenance it to be paid, which is based in part on the length of the marriage and the current incomes of the spouses.

According to the Colorado Maintenance Calculation Chart set forth below, the guideline percentage of income that may be required to be paid can range from 31% to 50% of a spouse’s income after certain adjustments, and can last from 11 months to 120 months (or more).   There are many factors that must be considered in making these calculations and determining how long maintenance may be required.  It is therefore critical to understand that the maintenance calculation chart is only a guideline, and not determinative in terms of the ultimate award of maintenance.

Is Maintenance or Spousal Support Automatically Awarded in Colorado?

No.  Colorado courts will consider the factors noted above in determining whether one spouse will be required to pay maintenance to the other spouse.  In many cases – particularly when both spouses are gainfully employed – no maintenance will be required.

Specifically, C.R.S. § 14-10-114(3)(d) provides that:

After considering the provisions of this section and making the required findings of fact, the court shall award maintenance only if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him or her, to provide for his or her reasonable needs and is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it inappropriate for the spouse to be required to seek employment outside the home.

How Long Must Maintenance Be Paid?

The Colorado maintenance guidelines specify the number of months for which maintenance must be paid based on the length of the marriage.  These guidelines do not provide for maintenance to be paid in marriages lasting less than three years, nor do they provide how long maintenance should be paid if a marriage lasted longer than 20 years (the upper-most requirement is for maintenance of 10 years in marriages lasting 20 years).  For marriages lasting for three years, the guideline term of maintenance is 11 months.

Can a Spouse Who is Married Less than 3 Years Receive Spousal Maintenance in Colorado?

Colorado law does not provide guidelines for maintenance in cases in which the parties have not been married at least 3 years.  As a result, it may be much more difficult for a spouse to be awarded maintenance if the marriage did not last for three years, although it is possible that the court could order maintenance to be paid in such a case.

Additionally, because the length of a marriage is generally related to how long maintenance must be paid, even if maintenance is awarded, it is not likely to last long (as 11 months is the guideline term for marriages lasting for 3 years).

How Long Will Maintenance Be Required in Marriages Lasting More Than 20 Years?

The Colorado Maintenance Guidelines require that maintenance should be paid for 120 months (ten years) in marriages that last for 20 years.  These guidelines do not consider maintenance in marriages lasting for more than 20 years.  The law requires that if maintenance is to be paid in situations where a marriage lasted for more than 20 years, the duration of the maintenance must be for at least 10 years unless the court finds circumstances to award a shorter duration.

What Factors are Considered in Determining Maintenance?

As noted above, the Maintenance Chart is used for guidelines purposes only.  Colorado courts are required to consider “all relevant factors” in determining whether maintenance should be provided.[2]  Without limiting such factors, courts must consider the following factors:

  1. The financial resources of the recipient spouse, including actual or potential income,
  2. The financial resources of the payor spouse,
  3. The couple’s lifestyle during marriage,
  4. The distribution of the marital property,
  5. Both parties’ income, employment, and employability,
  6. Factors concerning historical earnings,
  7. The duration of the marriage,
  8. The amount of temporary maintenance and the number of months in which temporary maintenance was awarded,
  9. The age and health of each of the parties,
  10. Significant economic or non-economic contributions of the parties, such as one spouse working to pay for the college expenses of the other spouse,
  11. Whether factors warrant that a nominal amount be awarded to preserve a claim of maintenance in the future, and (importantly)
  12. Any other factors that the court may consider.

This is where an experienced divorce lawyer can be beneficial.  As your lawyer, I will work tenaciously in seeking the best outcome possible with respect to your maintenance objectives.

Do Colorado Courts Automatically Favor Women Over Men in Awarding Spousal Support / Maintenance?

Gender is not a factor in the spousal support guidelines and Colorado law does not favor women over men in maintenance awards.  Instead, courts must look only to the statutory considerations and guidelines for maintenance awards, and to any relevant factors that may impact the financial situations of the spouses.

Historically, men were usually responsible for paying spousal support, as men were more likely to be the primary breadwinners in a family.  While women often worked outside the home, a common belief was that men had a “career” and were expected to support a family; women (if they worked) has a “job” that served to supplement a man’s income.

Thus, even when both spouses worked, men almost always made more money than their wives.  As a result, when a divorce occurred, historically it was typically the wife who sustained a much greater financial impact than her husband.

Much has changed in the advancement of women in the workplace, and women are now firmly entrenched in professional fields, often earning as much as or more than their husbands.  While it was once unheard of for men to be the “stay-at-home” parent raising the children, this situation is becoming more common.  The result is that in considering maintenance today, the courts will be much more focused on the financial situations of the spouses than they will on gender.

Can I Get Spousal Support or Maintenance if I Was Not Married to My Partner?

The short answer to this is generally no, except in rare circumstances.  Even if you have one or more children with your partner, if you were not married, you cannot receive spousal support in Colorado.

Colorado does not recognize “palimony”, which is like alimony (or spousal maintenance), but applies in long-term relationships that did not involve marriage or another state-recognized relationship (such as same-sex legal partnerships that existed before same-sex marriages were legal in many states).

The exception in which support may be applicable to non-married partners is in cases involving what is called a “putative spouse.”  A “putative spouse” is a person who believes that they are legally married to their partner when this is fact is not the case.

As an example, a person may believe that he or she is legally married to their spouse, when in fact a legal marriage did not exist because their spouse was already married to someone else at the time the “marriage” took place.  So long as the person legitimately believed that they were married, and they continued to live together (or “cohabitate”) with their spouse, the deceived person may still have a claim for maintenance.

Can Spouses Agree to Maintenance?

Yes.  As with most decisions that must be made in a divorce (such as the division of property), divorcing spouses are encouraged to reach a settlement for maintenance instead of leaving this matter to the court to decide.

Frequently, maintenance is negotiated with property division.  Often, one spouse may be willing to agree to give the other spouse more property in order to not have to pay maintenance.  Such as arrangement can be beneficial to both parties, particularly in matters concerning a difficult divorce, as the parties do not need to be concerned with making (or collecting) future maintenance checks.

What Spousal Maintenance Rights Will be Best for You?

Because spousal maintenance can last for months or years, it is important to seek the assistance of a dedicated attorney who will work tirelessly in seeking the best outcome possible.  I help clients going through a divorce not only in seeking to make their best case for whether spousal support is appropriate or not, but also in all other respects, including property division, child support, and parenting time.

_________

[1] See https://codes.findlaw.com/co/title-14-domestic-matters/co-rev-st-sect-14-10-114.html

[2] Id.

Colorado Maintenance Guidelines

Months of Marriage Percentage Guideline Term of Maintenance
36 31.00% 11
37 31.17% 12
38 31.33% 12
39 31.50% 12
40 31.67% 13
41 31.83% 13
42 32.00% 13
43 32.17% 14
44 32.33% 14
45 32.50% 15
46 32.67% 15
47 32.83% 15
48 33.00% 16
49 33.17% 16
50 33.33% 17
51 33.50% 17
52 33.67% 18
53 33.83% 18
54 34.00% 18
55 34.17% 19
56 34.33% 19
57 34.50% 20
58 34.67% 20
59 34.83% 21
60 35.00% 21
61 35.17% 21
62 35.33% 22
63 35.50% 22
64 35.67% 23
65 35.83% 23
66 36.00% 24
67 36.17% 24
68 36.33% 25
69 36.50% 25
70 36.67% 26
71 36.83% 26
72 37.00% 27
73 37.17% 27
74 37.33% 28
75 37.50% 28
76 37.67% 29
77 37.83% 29
78 38.00% 30
79 38.17% 30
80 38.33% 31
81 38.50% 31
82 38.67% 32
83 38.83% 32
84 39.00% 33
85 39.17% 33
86 39.33% 34
87 39.50% 34
88 39.67% 35
89 39.83% 35
90 40.00% 36
91 40.17% 37
92 40.33% 37
93 40.50% 38
94 40.67% 38
95 40.83% 39
96 41.00% 39
97 41.17% 40
98 41.33% 41
99 41.50% 41
100 41.67% 42
101 41.83% 42
102 42.00% 43
103 42.17% 43
104 42.33% 44
105 42.50% 45
106 42.67% 45
107 42.83% 46
108 43.00% 46
109 43.17% 47
110 43.33% 48
111 43.50% 48
112 43.67% 49
113 43.83% 50
114 44.00% 50
115 44.17% 51
116 44.33% 51
117 44.50% 52
118 44.67% 53
119 44.83% 53
120 45.00% 54
121 45.17% 55
122 45.33% 55
123 45.50% 56
124 45.67% 57
125 45.83% 57
126 46.00% 58
127 46.17% 59
128 46.33% 59
129 46.50% 60
130 46.67% 61
131 46.83% 61
132 47.00% 62
133 47.17% 63
134 47.33% 63
135 47.50% 64
136 47.67% 65
137 47.83% 66
138 48.00% 66
139 48.17% 67
140 48.33% 68
141 48.50% 68
142 48.67% 69
143 48.83% 70
144 49.00% 71
145 49.17% 71
146 49.33% 72
147 49.50% 73
148 49.67% 74
149 49.83% 74
150 50.00% 75
151 50.00% 76
152 50.00% 76
153 50.00% 77
154 50.00% 77
155 50.00% 78
156 50.00% 78
157 50.00% 79
158 50.00% 79
159 50.00% 80
160 50.00% 80
161 50.00% 81
162 50.00% 81
163 50.00% 82
164 50.00% 82
165 50.00% 83
166 50.00% 83
167 50.00% 84
168 50.00% 84
169 50.00% 85
170 50.00% 85
171 50.00% 86
172 50.00% 86
173 50.00% 87
174 50.00% 87
175 50.00% 88
176 50.00% 88
177 50.00% 89
178 50.00% 89
179 50.00% 90
180 50.00% 90
181 50.00% 91
182 50.00% 91
183 50.00% 92
184 50.00% 92
185 50.00% 93
186 50.00% 93
187 50.00% 94
188 50.00% 94
189 50.00% 95
190 50.00% 95
191 50.00% 96
192 50.00% 96
193 50.00% 97
194 50.00% 97
195 50.00% 98
196 50.00% 98
197 50.00% 99
198 50.00% 99
199 50.00% 100
200 50.00% 100
201 50.00% 101
202 50.00% 101
203 50.00% 102
204 50.00% 102
205 50.00% 103
206 50.00% 103
207 50.00% 104
208 50.00% 104
209 50.00% 105
210 50.00% 105
211 50.00% 106
212 50.00% 106
213 50.00% 107
214 50.00% 107
215 50.00% 108
216 50.00% 108
217 50.00% 109
218 50.00% 109
219 50.00% 110
220 50.00% 110
221 50.00% 111
222 50.00% 111
223 50.00% 112
224 50.00% 112
225 50.00% 113
226 50.00% 113
227 50.00% 114
228 50.00% 114
229 50.00% 115
230 50.00% 115
231 50.00% 116
232 50.00% 116
233 50.00% 117
234 50.00% 117
235 50.00% 118
236 50.00% 118
237 50.00% 119
238 50.00% 119
239 50.00% 120
240 50.00% 120

 

[1]  See Colorado Revised Statutes § 14-10-114(3)(b).

[2] C.R.S. § 14-10-114(2)(c).