Spousal Maintenance (AKA Alimony)
When couples separate or divorce, provisions must be made to cover the living expenses of both parties. Often at this point the parties begin maintaining two separate households which causes expenses to increase. If one party is not financially self-sufficient, that spouse may be entitled to temporary or long-term spousal maintenance (AKA alimony). As with all family law matters, either the parties can agree to a resolution through negotiation or mediation, or a proceeding becomes contested and the Court can determine resolution.Are You Eligible to Receive Spousal Support?
The legal standard is set forth in the Colorado Maintenance Guidelines. There is a detailed formula, but at a basic level after a marriage of three years, it involves calculating 40% of the higher earner’s income subtracted by 50% of the of the lower earner’s income for spouses who are not sufficiently able to support themselves.
Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially on a temporary or long-term basis is decided case-by-case by the parties, or by the Court if a party requests a decision. The modern trend is away from long-term support and towards creating a situation where a supported spouse can become self-supporting. Of course, a party’s ability to become self-supporting is impacted by many factors such as age and any mental or physical limitations.Factors
Courts consider such factors as:
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance;
- A party's ability to meet his or her needs independently, including financial and physical obligations for the care of children;
- The time necessary to acquire training or education;
- A party's future earning capacity;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age as well as the physical and emotional conditions of the parties; and
- The ability of a supporting spouse to pay spousal support while meeting his or her own needs
Any court-ordered maintenance award is subject to modification by the court, as is any maintenance award agreed upon by the parties unless the agreement specifically states that the maintenance is non-modifiable. Typically, the payor may deduct all maintenance paid from his or her income and the payee claims all maintenance received as taxable income.
Sometimes maintenance awards are set to decrease at future points in time based on the occurrence of defined events such as receipt of payments from a pension plan or completion of education or training. Of course, future events may not always occur as planned, therefore modifications may become necessary.Maintenance Termination
Maintenance terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise. In an express agreement, the language must be clear, such as “maintenance shall terminate upon the death or remarriage of “the name of the recipient.” Maintenance also terminates upon the death of the supporting spouse unless the parties have agreed or the Court has ordered otherwise. If a separation agreement is silent on the issue, maintenance will end upon the death of the supporting spouse.
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