Colorado Spousal Support Guidelines

by Mary Jane Freeman Google

    In Colorado, spousal support is known as maintenance. Depending on the type of maintenance requested -- temporary or permanent -- determining if and how much you will receive or pay is relatively easy. This is because Colorado uses a formula to calculate maintenance under specific circumstances, taking the income of each spouse into consideration. When using this formula is not appropriate, the decision is left up to the court, which makes a determination based on several statutory factors and the individual circumstances of each case.

    Temporary Maintenance

    Like other states, Colorado allows for temporary maintenance to be paid to a needy spouse while divorce proceedings are underway. If the combined annual adjusted gross income for you and your spouse is $75,000 or less, and your individual earnings are drastically different, the court will presume that maintenance for the lower-earning spouse is necessary. To determine the monthly amount, the court takes 40 percent of the higher monthly income and then deducts from that amount 50 percent of the lower monthly income. For example, if your spouse earns $5,000 per month and you earn $2,500, the court will award you $750 per month in temporary maintenance. The court may deviate from this formula if the end result would be inequitable or unjust. If a couple's combined yearly income is greater than $75,000, there is no set formula. Instead, the court will decide on the appropriate amount after evaluating several factors set out in Colorado law.

    Permanent Maintenance

    Permanent maintenance is support paid to a needy spouse after the divorce decree is issued. Despite its name, permanent maintenance isn't necessarily for life. Both its duration and amount are determined by the court. Unlike with temporary maintenance, there is no set formula. Instead, the court evaluates a handful of statutory factors, the same as those used to calculate temporary maintenance when a couple's combined income is greater than $75,000 per year. Factors include the length and standard of living during the marriage; the requesting spouse's age, health, emotional condition and financial resources; the other spouse's ability to pay; and the amount of time necessary for the requesting spouse to acquire education and training to become self-sufficient. To be eligible, the spouse requesting permanent maintenance must demonstrate a lack of sufficient property to meet reasonable needs and be either unable to support herself with adequate employment or unable to work because of child care responsibilities.

    Maintenance Agreements

    In Colorado, spouses are free to reach their own maintenance agreements. This means you and your spouse can devise your own temporary and permanent maintenance terms. You can even decide not to have any maintenance at all, which means a spouse entitled to maintenance under Colorado law can choose to waive this right. However, if maintenance is waived or deviates from the presumptive amount a spouse is entitled to under the law, the agreement must expressly state the reason for the waiver or deviation. The court will review the agreement and approve it, so long as the terms are not unconscionable.

    Modification

    If circumstances change after your maintenance order is established, Colorado law allows you to petition the court for a modification of its terms. A general change of circumstances, however, will not be enough. The changes must be of such an ongoing and substantial nature that continuing the maintenance order as originally drafted would be unfair under the circumstances, such as job loss, remarriage or unexpected disability. However, modification will not be possible if maintenance was ordered pursuant to a private maintenance agreement and the spouses included non-modification language, removing the court's authority to later modify the agreement.

    About the Author

    In addition to writing on legal topics, Mary Jane Freeman also works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.

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