Going through a divorce is a difficult process. In addition to learning how to navigate a social life as a newly single person, divorcing spouses must adjust to an entirely different financial reality.
While a divorce is pending and after it becomes final, one spouse may pay spousal maintenance to another spouse. Once called alimony, spousal maintenance or spousal support is money the higher-earning spouse pays to the lower-earning spouse to assist them financially.
Whether you are the spouse who will need a financial contribution from your ex or you are the spouse being asked to pay support, you need a savvy lawyer to help you negotiate spousal support. A legal professional can help ensure that discussions are productive, and the final arrangement is appropriate and fair.
Couples sometimes work together to develop a support schedule for the spouse who earns less or who does not work. The divorcing spouses enter a contract agreeing that one will pay a specific amount to the other or provide certain supports, such as assuming sole responsibility for mortgage payments or providing health insurance to the other spouse. In other cases, a pre-nuptial agreement might dictate the terms of any ongoing support.
However, it is important that a lawyer review any support agreement a couple negotiates together. The agreement might require one spouse to give up rights or accept less than they are entitled to receive. This is a choice spouses are free to make, but they should do so with full knowledge of the agreement’s implications.
When parties cannot agree on spousal maintenance, Colorado Revised Statute §14-10-114 offers judges some guidance. The statute allows judges considerable leeway to respond to a couple’s particular circumstances, but it provides a framework for judges to consider when making decisions about spousal maintenance.
Spousal support is not automatic. A spouse must ask for maintenance, and the judge must find they are eligible to receive it. The law says that a spouse is eligible for maintenance if they cannot support themselves because they lack sufficient property to provide for their needs, or are unable to work because they are caring for a child or because some other condition renders them unable to earn an adequate living.
The law’s intent is that maintenance awards be fair to each party. The law suggests maintenance amounts based on a percentage of the combined adjusted incomes of the divorcing spouses.
It sets forth several factors a judge could consider when evaluating whether to adhere to the suggested percentage or make adjustments based on the spouses’ individual circumstances:
Some divorcing spouses might worry that they will be on the hook for maintenance payments forever. Except in some cases of divorce after a long marriage, that will not be the case.
The law sets forth a schedule suggesting the duration of maintenance payments. The term is roughly one-third of the duration of the marriage for couples married fewer than five years, going up to one-half of the duration of the marriage for couples married more than twelve and a half years.
When a couple divorces after six years of marriage, the paying spouse might be required to pay maintenance for about two years. If they divorce after 16 years, a spouse could expect to receive support for eight years. When a marriage exceeds 20 years, judges have discretion to extend the term of maintenance beyond the statutory period.
Whether you are a spouse who requires support or are being asked to support your ex-partner, having a knowledgeable legal professional at your side can help ensure the final support order is fair to you both.
It is a good idea to consult with a Loveland spousal support lawyer as soon as you decide to divorce. Call today to schedule an appointment.