Colorado’s New Maintenance Statute
On January 1, 2014, Colorado enacted a new spousal maintenance statute in C.R.S. 14-10-114, setting forth guidelines for maintenance payments from one spouse to another. “Spousal Maintenance” is Colorado’s legal term for “spousal support” or “alimony.”
Prior to the enactment of the new maintenance statute, Judges were given a large amount of discretion in how much they would award each month, and how long the maintenance award would last. This created uncertainty for attorneys when advising their clients on whether to take a case to trial or not. We would attempt to make predications based on judges’ past maintenance awards in cases; while this would sometimes work, there would be cases where the original judge was not presiding on the day or the hearing, or we just plain “guessed” wrong as to the way a judge would rule on maintenance on any given day.
When there is more certainty in a law, and less discretion, it is more likely that parties can reach a settlement on issues of their case because there is more certainty as to what will happen in Court.
How Does the Statute Work?
The new maintenance statute still provides a framework for Judges to use their discretion when entering a maintenance award in a divorce case. However, there are numeric guidelines for the Court to review before entering a maintenance award. If spouses were married for at least three years, and if their combined income does not exceed $240,000 per year, the Court asks Judges to review the guidelines prior to entering a maintenance award.
The Statute states that the guideline is “equal to forty percent of the higher income party’s monthly adjusted gross income less fifty percent of the lower income party’s monthly adjusted gross income.” For example Mary makes $5000 per month and Joe makes $2000 per month, the guideline maintenance award would be Mary paying Joe $1000 per month.
However, be careful, as the statute also puts a “cap” on a maintenance award. The “cap” is as follows: “except that, when [the maintenance] is added to the gross income of the recipient, shall not result in the recipient receiving in excess of forty percent of the parties’ combined monthly gross income. “ In the same example, applying the cap would result in a maintenance award of $800 per month from Mary to Joe.
Secondly, the Court will look to the guidelines to determine length of time of the award. If this couple was married for 5 years, the maintenance award would be for 21 months.
Is it Just a Guideline?
Although the statute gives specific guidelines as to the amount and length of the maintenance award, Judges are still permitted to, by his or her discretion, deviate from a maintenance award based on a number of factors.
The Court is to consider the financial resources of both Husband and Wife, specifically the Judge will consider whether the recipient spouse can meet his or her needs independently and the ability of the paying spouse to pay maintenance while still meeting his or her reasonable needs.
A Judge is also to consider the lifestyle of the parties during the marriage, the distribution of property, both parties’ income, employment and employability, and whether one party has historically earned more than the other during the marriage.
Additional factors to be considered include, the duration of the marriage, the amount of temporary maintenance that was paid, the age and health of the parties, contribution of the parties to the marriage, and any other factor the Court deems relevant.
Essentially, although there is a specified amount and time in the statute, the Court can still consider a wide range of factors when determining a maintenance award. If you believe that maintenance may be an issue in your case, whether you may be obligated to pay it or may receive it, you may want to contact an attorney to discuss the specific issues of your case. If you would like to speak with an attorney at Hulse Law Firm to discuss maintenance, please contact me at (720) 480-2247, or view information regarding your divorce and maintenance at Spousal Maintenance Colorado.