In 2013 the Colorado Legislature amended CRS 14-10-114 concerning spousal support (also known as maintenance or alimony) in divorce. The amendment became effective starting in January 2014. The new law still prohibits a court from awarding maintenance except when one spouse (a) doesn’t have sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs, and (b) either can’t do so through appropriate employment or has children under circumstances that make employment outside the home inappropriate. However, the new statute sets forth additional, detailed rules a court must follow in calculating spousal support. It also creates a basic formula for determining the amount and duration of maintenance. The court is not required to apply the formula rigidly, but many lawyers practicing family law confirm that many courts to give the formula substantial consideration in many cases.
The guideline for calculating the monthly amount for maintenance uses a formula based on percentages of incomes for both spouses. Simply stated, the guideline suggests a maintenance amount derived by deducting 50% of the lesser income from 40% of the greater income. The guideline also suggests a standard duration in months for any permanent maintenance order. The duration suggested by the guideline comes from a schedule set forth in the text of the statute, and is directly related to the length of the marriage, in months, as of the date of the divorce decree.
Although anyone can, by reference to the guideline, easily calculate the suggested amount and duration for maintenance, divorce litigants should recognize:
1. Many variables must be considered before arriving at correct income amounts to use in the guideline formula.
2. The law does not require the judge to use the guideline numbers. The trial judge retains very broad discretion to either follow or disregard the amount and duration of maintenance suggested by the guideline.
Parties in divorce actions should consider these statutory provisions and discuss them in detail with competent legal counsel when negotiating maintenance or preparing for a contested hearing on maintenance. For more information, pleased contact Weaver & Fitzhugh P.C.