Spousal support is a court-ordered arrangement in which one spouse of a divorce pays another – either in a lump sum or monthly payments. A judge in Colorado may award spousal support during a divorce case that involves an income disparity between the spouses. If one spouse stayed at home to care for the kids while the other got an education and a career, for example, the first spouse may be eligible for spousal support if he or she is in financial need. The duration of the award will depend on the situation.
Who Qualifies for Spousal Support?
Colorado’s spousal support law, Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-114, states that a divorce court may grant this type of award when one spouse needs financial support and the other has the ability to provide this support. In Colorado, the courts do not look at fault for the divorce when determining spousal support. It will not matter, for example, if one spouse cheated on the other. Instead, the courts look at each spouse’s financial standing to determine the eligibility of spousal maintenance.
The courts will consider many factors in determining a spousal support award. However, they will mainly analyze whether one spouse will be at a financial deficit post-divorce, while another will have enough to offer financial relief. If this is the case, the spouse with more financial stability may have to pay the other spouse temporarily or permanently. Not all divorce cases result in spousal support. Even cases involving financial need may not receive spousal support depending on the circumstances.
Calculating Spousal Support
The courts in Colorado will calculate the amount of a spousal support award using a complex percentage system. For example, they will take 40% of the higher-earning party’s monthly gross income and subtract half of the lower earner’s monthly income. If the higher earner has a gross monthly income of $10,000, for example, and the lower earner makes $5,000, the spousal support award would be $1,500 ($10,000 x 40% = $4,000; $5,000 x 50% = $2,500; $4,000 – $2,500 = $1,500). The percentages can depend on the length of the marriage. An attorney can help you calculate your potential spousal support arrangement.
The Length of a Spousal Support Arrangement
If a judge deems spousal support appropriate in a divorce case, he or she may order a temporary or permanent award to one party. Temporary awards are more common. They do not last for the rest of the recipient’s life. A temporary support order may last until the divorce is final if one spouse requested spousal maintenance during the divorce process. In other cases, a judge may make a temporary order part of the divorce decree. Colorado has a lengthy and detailed list of how long spousal support will last if the couple was married at least 3 years but less than 20.
3 years: 31% for 11 months
5 years: 35% for 21 months
10 years: 45% for 54 months
15 years: 50% for 90 months
20 years: 50% for 120 months
These guidelines only apply if the couple makes $240,000 or less in combined income. Otherwise, the courts will calculate the length of the order in months based on marriage length. If a marriage lasted longer than 20 years, the courts will have the power to award spousal support for a specific number of years or indefinitely. A judge’s decision will depend on the factors of the case. The list of spousal support lengths for different marriage terms under Colorado law is not a guarantee that the courts will issue this type of award.
Spousal Support Modifications
If the spousal support becomes part of the divorce agreement, it will remain in place until the deadline passes. Either spouse will have the right to request a spousal support modification if one party’s financial status changes. If the spouse giving the maintenance loses his or her job, for example, the courts may suspend or terminate the support order early. The party making the request must have a valid reason for the judge to grant a modification order.