Alimony is one of the more hotly debated aspects of many divorce cases. Alimony, referred to as “spousal maintenance” in Colorado, is a court-ordered payment one spouse must give to the other spouse after a divorce or legal separation. A spouse may have to pay alimony for the maintenance and support of a dependent spouse. A “dependent” spouse is one who makes less money than the other spouse. There are many considerations when determining alimony – a main one of which is the type.
Colorado courts recognize five types of alimony:
If one spouse is unable to support him or herself during a legal separation, the courts may order the other spouse to pay maintenance or alimony. The question of self-sufficiency in these situations may depend on the spouse’s job, income, housing payments, bills, and the lifestyle he/she grew accustomed to during the marriage.
If you and your spouse reconcile, alimony payments end. If you turn your legal separation into a divorce, the courts may change your separation alimony into another type. Separation alimony may also be “temporary alimony” if the courts award it to a spouse during divorce proceedings. Temporary alimony can include payment for daily expenses and divorce costs, and it will end/change upon official termination of the marriage.
When one spouse is not self-sufficient, the courts may order rehabilitative alimony to give the spouse a financial crutch while he/she finds the means to care for him/herself (and any minor children included). Typically, courts order this type of alimony for a specific amount of time, giving the receiving spouse a timeframe for finding employment or expanding employment skills.
There is no set amount of time for rehabilitative alimony – the judge will make this determination based on the specifics of each individual case. Once the spouse can earn money and take care of him or herself, the other spouse can stop making maintenance payments. When the timeframe ends, the court will review the situation and make appropriate changes.
A judge may order this type of alimony to reimburse a spouse if he or she paid for the other spouse’s education or job skill training during marriage. In these situations, the spouse who accepted the gift during marriage will have to repay the expenses in alimony payments – either a full or partial amount.
In a permanent alimony agreement, the courts order payments to continue indefinitely. The spouse making maintenance payments will have to continue making them monthly until the courts order otherwise. Colorado judges will consider issues that affect employability, such as physical health and age, when ordering permanent alimony. The courts may make this order for many reasons, including if the dependent spouse:
Has a disability or handicap and is unable to work.
Married without having any employment skills.
Has no work experience due to raising children and/or taking care of the home during marriage.
Cannot maintain the standard of living he/she enjoyed while married without alimony.
Despite the name, this type of alimony is not always permanent in Colorado. Typically, courts will not order alimony forever, except in some long-term marriages (20 years or longer). Instead, one spouse must make maintenance payments until the dependent spouse can acquire sufficient job skills to support him or herself.
Lump Sum Alimony
If one spouse does not want any assets, property, or items of value form the marriage, a judge may order the other spouse to pay a one-time lump-sum alimony, or “alimony in gross” in lieu of the property.