Spousal maintenance can be either temporary or permanent, and the issue can be resolved between parties in a number of ways, from using the division of property to avoid the need for maintenance altogether to accepting a lump sum instead of periodic payments. Regardless of which options the parties and the court consider, however, parties getting divorced in Colorado are required to acknowledge that they have reviewed and understand the spousal maintenance guidelines under Colorado law before the court can enter any order regarding spousal maintenance.
Colorado courts have not always had a concrete formula for evaluating requests for maintenance in a divorce. In fact, prior to 2014, judges were required to first determine whether a spouse seeking maintenance even qualified to make the request, and then had to consider a wide variety of factors to determine a maintenance figure. This process resulted in wildly different spousal maintenance scenarios from one case to the next, which made it incredibly difficult for parties to know what to expect or how to define what was fair. When parties have no idea what to expect, they cannot negotiate effectively.
In an effort to bring more uniformity to spousal maintenance awards and to facilitate parties’ abilities to fairly negotiate, the Colorado legislature created a formula to calculate spousal maintenance that the courts have used since 2014. Unlike the formula used to calculate child support, the formula used for maintenance is advisory only, which means that after the court takes the first step of determining whether a valid need for maintenance exists, the court will look to the formula to provide a recommended maintenance figure, but the court is not required to adopt that exact figure. Even so, ever since the formula’s adoption, parties and courts have used the formula’s guidance to produce more consistent results in this contentious area of divorce.
While the formula has certainly helped parties formulate more realistic expectations on the issue of spousal maintenance, figuring out what numbers to insert into the formula is still often confusing. These inputs will depend on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the length of the marriage, the gross monthly income of the parties, the earning capacity of the parties, and potential forms of income each party may be capable of earning. And there are factors outside of the formula to consider, too, such as the effect of current tax law and whether to allow the maintenance order to be modified in the future.
With spousal maintenance, it is important not only to understand how to calculate the recommended amount correctly to assess how it affects the terms of your divorce, but to consider how that number is going to affect the next phase of your life. That consideration is equally valid no matter which side of the maintenance equation you fall on.
If you believe spousal maintenance may be an issue in your divorce, it is imperative that you develop a cohesive strategy surrounding your position from the start of your case. Failing to do so means less predictable results and potentially more obstacles on your new path in life. Please contact us today to get started on creating an effective maintenance strategy that will help get you to where you need to be.