In Colorado when getting a divorce, some of the terms heard in court may differ from what a person believes the provision is called. For example, according to Colorado law, Divorce is referred to as a “Dissolution of Marriage (DOM).” If the living arrangements of minor children are involved while custody is the term people may be familiar with, the legal term used is “Allocation of Parental Responsibility APR.” One of the terms that results in the most questions however is the term” Maintenance.” Many people believe that Alimony differs from Maintenance. In reality, these two terms mean the same thing and they share their definition with the term “Spousal Support.” Part of the confusion results from the IRS continuing to refer to these payments as alimony.
Since the statutes regarding spousal maintenance were unclear, in January 2014 new Colorado laws relating to spousal support were passed. Specifically, new guidelines state that on maintenance awards may be appropriate if one spouse is in need of support and the other spouse is able to pay for their own support and that of the divorced spouse. Alimony is awarded without consideration of any facts related to the reasons for divorce such as adultery, cruelty, abandonment, mental illness, or whether the reason is due to fault or no fault. The statute states, “An award of maintenance shall be in an amount and for a term that is fair and equitable to both parties and shall be made without regard to marital misconduct.” Maintenance applies to both parties in the marriage so the husband or wife may be ordered to pay, depending on who is financially independent and has the funds and who is considered “non-monied.”
While the specifics of what constitutes maintenance and what is awarded differ by State, there are three common types of maintenance that may be awarded. These include:
- Lump sum maintenance
- Temporary maintenance
- Permanent maintenance
Lump sum maintenance is a one- time payment given to the spouse. Temporary maintenance is provided for a specific period of time, usually until the spouse is independent financially. Often this includes a sum to complete an educational degree or additional training in an area in order to obtain employment. Permanent maintenance is awarded for a non-specific period.
When considering a request for maintenance, the court considers a variety of factors including:
- The age of each spouse
- The gross income of each spouse
- The length of time they were married
- Each spouses’ opportunities for income and the state of their current employment
- the amount of marital property each spouse will receive
- an estimation of the financial requirements of each spouse determined by
the marital history
Maintenance payments stop when one spouse remarries or in the case of the death of either spouse. Alimony or maintenance allowance is terminated in the death of either of the partners. If the partner ordered to pay maintenance loses their job or has a reversal of financial stability, then the maintenance payments are reduced or terminated after the courts re-examine the resources and opportunities of each spouse.
While Colorado now has one of the highest average amounts awarded for maintenance and child support, the Colorado State Bar Association feel that the new statutes are fair. They state, ” Colorado family court wants to ensure fairness and self-sufficiency when it handles a case. When a child has been born, she or he deserves the emotional and financial support of both parents. When a marriage has ended, both partners deserve the chance to get back on their feet financially.”