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
The court 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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