Alimony, called spousal maintenance in Colorado, is a court-ordered payment one spouse gives the other as part of a divorce or separation agreement. Typically, the spouse earning less income will receive the payments, while the one with greater income becomes the payer. Alimony is a guarantee in Colorado divorce cases where the combined gross annual income of the couple is under $75,000.
The point of alimony is to bridge the gap between two spouses with an income disparity, to ensure both enjoy the same standard of living they enjoyed while married. In Colorado, it is not to punish one spouse or the other. Furthermore, Colorado is a no-fault divorce state. This means it will not consider any evidence of one spouse’s fault for the divorce in determining settlement arrangements. An extramarital affair, for instance, will not affect alimony in Colorado.
Rules of Alimony in Colorado
Colorado has stricter alimony laws than in most other states. It is one of only a few states to make alimony decrees mandatory in certain divorce cases. In other states, alimony is never a guarantee, but rather contingent on the couple’s unique situation. Colorado has a presumption that most marriages involve an intermingling of both spouse’s economic lives. The Colorado General Assembly has concluded it is often impossible to separate the individual debts and contributions of each during a divorce case.
This presumption has led to the legislative declaration found in Section 14-10-114 of the Colorado Revised Statutes: if the combined income of a couple is less than $75,000, the courts must order temporary alimony. If over $75,000, it is up to the judge whether to make this order. Colorado’s unique alimony statute ensures a divorce proceeding does not leave one spouse impoverished. Once the temporary alimony order expires, the judge may decide to make it permanent.
Temporary alimony orders generally award spousal support equal to 40% of the higher earner’s income, minus 50% of the lower earner’s income. It is possible to receive a different order if evidence shows need for another amount. The temporary order will last as long as the judge commands, at which point a hearing will take place to determine the need for a permanent alimony order. Alimony typically lasts until the lower-earning spouse can acquire sufficient education or training for employment, or until that spouse remarries.
Colorado’s No-Fault Divorce Laws
In some states, each spouse’s actions during a marriage can determine the provisions of a divorce decree. If one spouse has an affair, for example, he or she could be at fault for the divorce and receive less than his or her spouse during property distribution. In Colorado, however, the courts do not care who is or is not at fault for the divorce. Section 14-10-113 of the law is clear: the courts will take many factors into account during property division decisions, but fault for the divorce is not one of them.
It does not matter if one spouse had an affair, or if this was the reason for the divorce. Adultery will not affect an alimony agreement in any way in Colorado. However, an affair could impact property division if the affair breached a prenuptial agreement or added debts to the marriage. If, for example, one spouse spent co-mingled money purchasing a hotel room during the affair, the cheating spouse could receive fewer assets because of the debt incurred.
Like alimony, having an affair also will not impact child custody or child support agreements in Colorado, unless the affair led to child neglect or abuse. If your spouse had an affair that ended your marriage, speak to a qualified local attorney about the possibility of it working in your favor during a divorce case. Although it will not have an impact on alimony, it could affect other aspects of your divorce case.