Prior to the passage of House Bill 13-1058, Colorado alimony (renamed “spousal maintenance”) awards varied greatly from judge to judge and were left to the discretion of the court.
The new legislation provides a well-defined, clear-cut formula for the first time in the history of Colorado alimony laws.
The Basic Calculation
If a couple makes $300,000 or less, the formula is 40 percent of the higher income earner’s adjusted gross income, less 50 percent of the lower income earner’s adjusted gross income.
This means that all parties that fall at or below the $300,000 earning limit have a standardized method of determining spousal maintenance.
Over $300,000 Income Limit
A couple making more than a combined income of $300,000, are still subject to the court’s discretion in factors, such as length of marriage and specific financial circumstances and dynamics. The 40/50-percent split formula, however, is no longer mandatory for the court.
No More Guaranteed Spousal Maintenance
Under the new Colorado statute, spousal maintenance for the party making less money is not guaranteed as it was under the old system.
The new legislation requires that the court review both parties’ financial circumstances before deciding on alimony for the lesser earning spouse.
No Maintenance Presumption
Also absent from the new law is the presumption that the husband is the party paying spousal maintenance; now it is determined by the higher-income earner.
Spousal maintenance must first be requested and the new 40/50-percent calculation is performed. The judge, though, still must make a determination as to the fairness and equity of any potential award.
Support that Deviates or is Denied
If any award is made contrary to the new calculations, the court must provide written or oral conclusions as to why an award of spousal maintenance was either denied or rendered by an alternate formula or different guidelines.
Property and Debt Distribution as Maintenance Leverage
Another interesting change to the law is the court’s discretion in using marital property or community debt to reduce the amount or term of a maintenance award.
A judge may award the maintenance recipient additional marital property to reduce the spousal maintenance to be paid. The judge may also allow the paying spouse to assume more of the marital debt as a way of reducing the award amount or length of its term.
When the New Law Takes Effect
The new Colorado alimony laws are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. However, judges are already using the new formula to calculate spousal maintenance awards, and Colorado divorce attorneys are also using it in their settlement negotiations.