Colorado refers to alimony as “spousal maintenance.” In a Colorado
divorce case, a judge may order the higher-earning spouse to pay the lower-earning
spouse maintenance while the case proceeds through the court. This is
often called “pendent lite maintenance.”
Once the divorce is finalized, the judge may also order short or long-term
maintenance. Usually, such payments are paid on a biweekly or monthly
basis for a specified length of time. Permanent alimony on the other hand,
has become increasingly rare over the years and is not ordered regularly.
Will spousal maintenance be awarded in your case and if so, for how long?
It depends on the facts of your case; for example, how long you’ve
been married, you and your spouse’s income and assets, and your
combined annual gross income. Even if your marriage lasted 10 or more
years, that doesn’t mean maintenance will be ordered indefinitely.
The Colorado courts view maintenance as rehabilitative, as something to
be paid temporarily until the lower-earning spouse finds a job or receives
training to improve his or her ability to find a good job. Lifetime alimony
is possible, though rare. It’s usually only awarded in cases where
a spouse cannot easily find employment due to advanced age or poor health.
Of course, a financially comfortable couple can always agree that the
higher-earning spouse will pay long-term or permanent alimony.
Terminating Spousal Maintenance
may order temporary maintenance if the couple’s combined annual income
is $75,000 or less. The court can also order temporary maintenance if
the couple’s combined annual income exceeds $75,000. That is, if
the lower-earning spouse does not have enough property to care for their
own needs, if they are caring for a young or disabled child, or if they
cannot easily become self-supporting through employment.
If the court decides to award maintenance, the judge has discretion to
set an amount and duration that seems fair to him or her. Before a family
court judge decides to award maintenance, the judge will consider only
those factors that pertain to a spouse’s need for maintenance and
the higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay it. Fault, or in other words,
marital misconduct, is not a factor that is weighed.
Unless the couple has an agreement in writing stating otherwise, the court
maintains the right to modify spousal maintenance if one party can prove
a significant change in circumstances. Otherwise, maintenance typically
ends when the receiving spouse gets
married to someone new.
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