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Does Length of Marriage Affect Divorce Settlement?


When sorting through the factors involved in your divorce case, you may wonder if the length of your marriage will make a difference. Whether you have been married 1 year or 10, it could affect how the Colorado courts view your divorce case. While length of marriage will not impact every decision the courts make during a divorce trial, it can influence some matters – particularly spousal maintenance, or alimony.

Length of Marriage and Alimony Payments

Alimony is a court order that requires one spouse to pay the other a certain sum of money. Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-114 allows either spouse to request alimony during a divorce case. The purpose of an alimony order is to keep both parties’ qualities of life the same or similar as to how they were during the marriage. If one spouse is accustomed to the other paying the bills while he or she stays home to care for children, for example, that spouse may receive an alimony award to maintain his or her standard of living after the divorce.

Most alimony orders are temporary. The paying spouse must only continue making alimony payments as long as the court order stipulates, often long enough for the recipient to obtain the job training or experience he or she needs for financial independence. Some alimony awards, however, are permanent. They will continue indefinitely, or until the court signs an order modifying the agreement.

Length of marriage often plays a role in alimony decisions in Colorado. In addition to factors such as economic statuses, standards of living and the ages of each spouse, the total length of the marriage will also matter in determining whether one spouse will receive alimony, and if so, for how long. Length of marriage matters because it can determine how long one spouse has lived with a certain quality of life or economic status.

How Colorado Calculates Alimony

Each state has unique alimony laws that determine how the courts will rule on alimony payments. In Colorado, the two main factors that can impact alimony are the spouses’ incomes and the length of marriage. While state law does not issue a steadfast rule courts must obey, it does give a recommended formula for calculating alimony. It is up to each judge to use or not to use this formula. The formula generally only applies to cases where combined incomes amount to $240,000 per year or less.

The recommended formula for taxable spousal maintenance payments is 40% of both parties’ combined adjusted gross incomes (AGIs), minus the lower-earning spouse’s AGI. Nontaxable alimony payments (if both parties have combined monthly incomes of $10,000 or less) will use the same formula but will multiply it by 80%. Nontaxable alimony for parties with combined monthly incomes of more than $10,000 will use a multiplier of 75%.

According to state law, the recommended alimony formula will only apply to couples who have been married for at least three years. Couples with marriages less than three years long may not be eligible for a spousal maintenance order in Colorado. If extenuating circumstances exist, however, the courts may make an exception. If one spouse gave up a career to raise a child, for example, a judge may still award alimony even if the marriage lasted less than three years.

Duration of marriage will also impact the formula for how long an alimony order will last. If someone qualifies to receive alimony after a divorce, the courts will generally award payments for about one-third of the total length of the marriage (the Anderson Formula). After 20 years of marriage, the courts will order duration for closer to half of the total length of marriage. After 30 years of marriage, the courts are more likely to award permanent alimony. A judge, however, will have ultimate jurisdiction over all alimony arrangements in Colorado.



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