Lifelong Alimony in Colorado

May 3, 2022 | Bill Henry

Alimony, also referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is a legal obligation one spouse has to provide financial support to the other during and/or after a legal separation or divorce. This is often a temporary arrangement until the lower-earning spouse can establish another source of income. However, Colorado family law courts sometimes order a spouse to pay lifelong alimony.

If you are considering divorce, there is a possibility that you will pay spousal maintenance for the rest of your life. This article explains when Colorado courts are more likely to award lifetime alimony.

Table of Contents

  1. Is Lifelong Alimony a Possibility For You?
  2. Is Lifelong Alimony Common in Colorado?
  3. How is Lifelong Alimony Determined?
  4. How Are Alimony Payments Determined?
  5. Why One Spouse Was Ordered to Pay Permanent Alimony: A Colorado Case
  6. Lifelong Alimony Cannot Impoverish One Spouse: A Colorado Case
  7. Talk with a Colorado Alimony Attorney

Is Lifelong Alimony a Possibility for You?

While some states have eliminated lifelong alimony, except in cases of elderly or disabled spouses, that is not the case in Colorado. If you were married for more than 20 years, or if your spouse is unable to work, you could pay spousal maintenance for the rest of your life. The R&H Family Law Team will advise you of your rights and fight for a fair outcome. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your free case assessment.

Is Lifelong Alimony Common in Colorado?

Colorado courts view spousal maintenance as a temporary solution until the lower-earning spouse finds a job or receives training to improve his or her employment opportunities.

This means that lifetime alimony is possible, but rare. It is typically only awarded in cases where a spouse cannot easily find employment due to advanced age, poor health, or when a couple was married for 20 years or longer.

So, if you’re divorcing someone who is not able to work or had little retirement savings before the marriage, a judge may order you to pay permanent spousal support.

How is Lifelong Alimony Determined?

Spousal maintenance is never automatically awarded in Colorado. One party must request it following a separation, divorce, or annulment.

Colorado courts consider the following factors when determining whether to award spousal maintenance:
  1. your and your spouse’s gross income
  2. the marital property allocated to each spouse
  3. each spouse’s financial resources (including, but not limited to, the actual or potential income from separate or marital property)
  4. reasonable financial need as established during the marriage
  5. whether any maintenance awarded would be deductible for federal income tax purposes by the paying spouse, and taxable income to the recipient spouse
    Colorado Revised Statutes § 14-10-114

How are Alimony Payments Determined?

How Alimony Payments Are Determined infographic.

A Review of Incomes

The amount of spousal maintenance is based on many factors. Income of each spouse is one of the most influential components. Colorado courts take into consideration both spouses’ ability to make money and meet their own needs.

Judges also consider:
  • the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage
  • the distribution of marital property
  • if the recipient spouse stays home with a child under 30 months old
  • the age and health of both spouses
  • past earning history and employability of both spouses
  • the duration of the marriage
  • if temporary maintenance was paid and for how long

C.R.S. 14-10-114

Contributions to the Marriage

The court also evaluates each spouse’s economic and non-economic contributions to the marriage.

Examples include:
  • if one spouse put the other through college
  • whether one stayed home with children so the other could focus on career goals
  • if a spouse helped improve the other spouse’s personal property or real estate

Why One Spouse Was Ordered to Pay Permanent Alimony: A Colorado Case 

In re Marriage of Micaletti

When Dennis and Joyce Micaletti ended their 32-year marriage in 1990, Joyce had recently undergone nursing training. At age 44, she accepted a job working 30 hours a week in an urgent care unit after spending years as a homemaker.

However, at the age of 50, she did not feel physically or emotionally capable of working more than 30 hours per week. And she testified at the permanent orders hearing that nursing was a high-stress job, and she requested alimony.

Wife Awarded Permanent Alimony

Based on Joyce’s testimony, a Jefferson County district court ordered Dennis to pay her $500 a month in permanent spousal maintenance. The court stipulated that the maintenance amount would increase to $750 per month when Dennis no longer had to pay child support for their minor son.

Micaletti Goes to the Appeals Court

Dennis appealed the court’s decision. He argued Joyce did not qualify for spousal maintenance, but a Colorado appeals judge disagreed and upheld the district court’s ruling:

“Given the 32-year duration of the marriage, the parties’ economic circumstances, and the wife’s age, health, and limited employment experience, we perceive no error in the court’s decision to award permanent maintenance.”
In re Marriage of Micaletti, 796 P.2d 54, 56 (Colo. App. 1990)

Lifelong Alimony Cannot Impoverish One Spouse: A Colorado Case

Elmer v. Elmer

Mildred Elmer filed for divorce from her husband, Raymond, in 1953, after 35 years of marriage. She asked a Denver County court for temporary and permanent alimony, division of property, and attorney fees.

Court Orders Husband to Pay Permanent Alimony

The court ordered Raymond to pay Mildred $350 per month in permanent alimony. The order stipulated that:

“this alimony should take the form of an annuity trust, with a substantial insurance company, which shall guarantee the plaintiff an income of $350 per month for the rest of her life, and this trust should further provide that if plaintiff should die before 20 years, any unpaid balance would go for children of parties; and it is ordered that this arrangement be set up within 30 days of this date.”
Elmer v. Elmer, 132 Colo. 57, 58-59, 285 P.2d 601, 603 (1955)

Raymond filed a motion to vacate the order. He claimed such an annuity would cost upwards of $90,000 in cash, which he did not have. Raymond’s motion was overruled.

Colorado Supreme Court Hears Elmer v. Elmer

On appeal, Raymond reiterated that doing as the court ordered him would essentially bankrupt him. The case made its way to the Colorado Supreme Court, which agreed with Raymond:

“In awarding permanent alimony, care should be taken that it does not amount to an appropriation of the entire estate of the husband. Fahey v. Fahey, 43 Colo. 354, 96 Pac. 251 The order for permanent alimony in the instant case amounts, under this record, to nothing more than confiscation of the assets of the husband. This cannot be done.”
Elmer v. Elmer, 132 Colo. 57, 60, 285 P.2d 601, 603 (1955)

Talk with a Colorado Alimony Attorney

It’s important to educate yourself before agreeing to anything involving lifelong alimony. Robinson & Henry’s experienced family law attorneys can advise you of your rights and responsibilities. We will help ensure a fair outcome and protect your assets. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your free case assessment.

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