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In re the Marriage of Stradtmann - Spousal Maintenance Retroactivity

In Colorado, spousal maintenance, AKA alimony, can be awarded to one spouse in the course of a dissolution of marriage. Maintenance can be awarded moving forward and it can also be awarded retroactively. The two most important factors in spousal maintenance are the incomes of the parties and the length of the marriage and Colorado has presumptive maintenance guidelines as well as a list of several factors which a court must consider.

In re the Marriage of Stradtmann - Spousal Maintenance Retroactivity

Maintenance is discretionary with the Court, unlike child support which is subject to much less discretion. Courts generally do not award more maintenance than the guidelines show, however may award less. Maintenance applies in marriages of three or more years duration. There are a few exceptions, however maintenance for marriages of under three years duration is not common. For example, if a spouse quit a professional position to raise children or to follow the other spouse to support him or her in his career, that could merit maintenance for a marriage of less than three years. Because Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, marital misconduct does not impact spousal maintenance.

The Court in In re Marriage of Stradtmann considered whether spousal maintenance can be awarded retroactively to a time prior to filing for dissolution. The Court determined that unlike child support, it can be. The Court also found that the trial court has to make detailed findings to support a maintenance award. In this case, Husband moved out of the marital home one month before the petition for dissolution was filed. The trial court had ordered retroactive maintenance and child support dating back to the month before the filing as well as for the months after filing until the hearing took place. Husband contended that child support could not be ordered for a period before filing and the appellate court agreed. Colorado Revised Statute (CRS) 14-10-115(2)(a) provides authority for a court to only grant retroactive child support to the later of the date of filing or service of the petition.

The Court determined that the maintenance statute allows for something different, however. CRS 14-10-114(2) states that maintenance may be awarded “for a term that is fair and equitable to both parties.” There is no specific limitation on the maintenance start date as there is for child support. As for findings, CRS 14-10-114 provides that “The court shall make specific written or oral findings in support of the amount and term of maintenance awarded pursuant to this section or an order denying maintenance.”

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