Colorado Alimony Calculator
For general information only. Laws change frequently, and we do not guarantee the accuracy of this calculator. Please consult the advice of a licensed attorney.
Alimony and Divorce in Colorado
Divorce is never an easy situation, and it can be made even more challenging to separate assets and determine what is needed for each party to maintain the lifestyle to which he or she was accustomed during the marriage. While child support relates to the care of minor children, what about the financial needs of the adults? Alimony, known as maintenance in Colorado and spousal support universally, is the court’s way to ensure that each party receives a fair amount of money to live and establish independence following the dissolution of the marriage.
What the Law Says About Alimony
In the state of Colorado, a family law judge will determine if maintenance is appropriate and, if so, how much and for how long. As stated in C.R.S. 14-10-114, determination of maintenance requires the request of one party following separation, divorce, or annulment and is based on the amount of each party’s gross income, marital property, and financial resources, as well as reasonable financial need as established during the marriage (3)(a)(I). After the court has determined that maintenance is appropriate, it will then identify the amount and length of alimony. This is based on a formula:
The amount of maintenance is equal to 40% of the higher income earner’s monthly adjusted gross income, minus 50% of the lower income earner’s monthly adjusted gross income. When the alimony amount is added to the gross income of the recipient, he or she cannot receive more than 40% of the couple’s combined monthly adjusted gross income.
The length of alimony is based on the number of months of marriage and ranges from 11 months for a marriage lasting three years to 10 years for a marriage lasting 20 years (see chart in C.R.S. 14-10-114). For marriages that lasted longer than 20 years, the court has discretion on how much and for how long alimony will be awarded. In some cases of long-term marriages, alimony can be granted for life, only to be rescinded upon death or remarriage.
So if you’re looking at your own situation, the timeline may seem clear according to the guidelines. Generally speaking, you need to have been married at least three years to be eligible for alimony. And if the higher earner grosses $40,000 monthly while the lower earner grosses $4,000 monthly, that person would be eligible for up to $14,000 in monthly support.
But that formula does not take into account that every court is run differently, and what you think is going to happen might not actually be what does happen.
How Colorado Courts Determine Spousal Maintenance
Colorado courts use legislative guidelines to determine when maintenance is awarded, how much should be awarded, and for how long. However, they are just guidelines, and the court can consider any factor related to the marriage in determining maintenance awards, including:
- The financial resources of both parties,
- The marriage lifestyle,
- The division of marital property,
- Each spouse’s employment and employability,
- Each spouse’s age and health, and
- Any significant economic and noneconomic contributions each spouse made to the marriage.
Significant economic and noneconomic contributions can include one spouse paying the other’s debts or completing job training while the other spouse worked full time.
The guidelines only apply to marriages where the couple’s combined annual gross earnings are $360,000 or less. In determining how long maintenance should last, they only apply to marriages that lasted between three and 20 years. For marriages longer than 20 years, the court has much more discretion, including awarding indefinite maintenance requiring an agreement or court order to terminate.
As a starting point for determining how much maintenance to award, the courts use a mathematical formula based on the couple’s yearly earnings, and the total award is capped at 40% of the couple’s combined annual gross income.
The court can allow temporary maintenance to a party earning less than the other party for use during the divorce proceedings, but the temporary maintenance may have no bearing on a more permanent award at the conclusion.
What You Might Not Know About Alimony
Even with the state regulations and guidelines, which you can review at your leisure, alimony is not always a cut-and-dried issue. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to have an experienced family and divorce attorney on your side as you maneuver your way through your separation and divorce. One court may follow the guidelines to the letter while another may choose to toss them out altogether. In the end, your awarding of alimony is reliant on the judgment of the family court in which you find your case being tried.
Let’s look at two examples of very different maintenance cases.
In the case of Marriage of Yates, the wife was requesting alimony of $1,300 monthly from her unemployed husband (148 P.3d at 313; No. 04CA1310; http://www.cobar.org/opinions/opinion.cfm?opinionid=5674&courtid=1). Instead of looking only at the fact that the husband wasn’t currently earning an income, the court looked instead at his earning potential. The court found that while the wife earned $4,750 each month, the husband had the potential to earn $12,845. Add that to the fact that the couple had been married for 20 years and that the wife had contributed to the husband’s career during their marriage, the court found that $500 a month in alimony was appropriate.
In another case, the marriage of Weibel (No. 97CA0459; http://www.cobar.org/opinions/opinion.cfm?opinionid=2660&courtid=1), the husband felt that the alimony order was unfair since the wife was putting her earned income into retirement and savings accounts instead of using that money to live. The court determined that the amount of money placed in savings and retirement accounts was not to be considered in reducing the maintenance amount because that money was classified as living expenses given the circumstances.
In each of these cases, the standard plug-and-play formula didn’t work to the benefit of both parties. The court made its own determinations based on the knowledge of the parties’ attorneys and their ability to appropriately try the cases. Appropriate representation is what made the difference in the end.
Why Having a Qualified Attorney Matters
There are many ways to achieve the dissolution of a marriage, including mediation, the parties representing themselves in court, and going to trial with experience attorneys. In only the latter option, however, do the parties have the benefit of comprehensive counsel.
Mediation may seem like a fantastic way to end a marriage because of the focus on remaining positive throughout the process. Unfortunately, not all marriages are good contenders for mediation and not all mediators possess a law degree. Your chosen (or court-appointed) mediator may not know all of the nuances of the law and how to share that information with you. And remember, too, that mediators are not there to help one party “win.” They cannot provide legal advice, which may leave you less knowledgeable in the long run. What started as a way to feel good about the divorce may end up with one or both parties not receiving what they want or need.
With all of the legal documents and forms available online, representing yourself in court may seem like a way to save money and accomplish just as much as you could with an experienced attorney. Of course, you likely don’t get divorced often and can’t possibly know all of the intricacies of the law. There’s a reason Abraham Lincoln said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” So many scenarios could play out before and during a court proceeding, leaving you with an ineffective. Even if you are a successful family and divorce attorney in your own right, emotions will always get in the way in a divorce setting.
When you hire a divorce attorney, such as one of the experienced trial lawyers at Robinson & Henry, you can be assured that you have an expert on your team. In what is almost always a very emotional time, your attorney keeps a level head and points out pros and cons of every situation. He or she knows the statutes, knows the other attorneys and judges, and can give you sound advice to help you achieve the most out of your divorce. Even if you think alimony isn’t an option in your situation, an experienced attorney may know otherwise—and can argue for it in court on your behalf.
Call the Attorneys at Robinson & Henry
If you are considering separation, divorce, or an annulment, you owe it to yourself to call the professionals at Robinson & Henry. Our talented team knows exactly what to expect and how to advise you to get the most out of an emotionally draining situation. We remain level headed when tempers flare, and we help you see everything clearly. We are not mediators; we are in it to win it for you. And we don’t provide legal advice for people to represent themselves.
As experienced divorce attorneys, we understand that dissolving a marriage is never easy, especially when you have had a long marriage with children. But we also know that we win cases—consistently. We go into court with experience on our side, and we make a difference for our clients on a daily basis. We advocate for you and your children to ensure you get everything that’s coming to you. We are relentless in court, often helping our clients get more than they thought possible before consulting with us.
Learn more about our firm at http://www.robinsonandhenry.com and call one of our offices in Denver or Castle Rock to schedule your appointment.