How does the court determine alimony in Colorado?

Rohan Mathew

Dealing with divorce or a separation can be a frustrating process, and one of the things that makes it so frustrating is determining alimony. Alimony is a type of payment made by a spouse or former spouse (depending on whether you are separated or divorced respectively), awarded based on whether one party requires financial assistance from the other party. But how is the amount and target of alimony determined by the courts in Colorado?

How the courts determine alimony in Colorado

When a couple goes to court to file for divorce or separation, a judge is then going to be responsible for determining various aspects of their split. For example, if they have a child, and custody of the child (such as length of time and primary home) is in dispute, a judge will have to decide based on the arguments made by both parties the details of child custody. As far as how alimony goes, things have changed in recent years. Before 2014, judges were able to determine alimony payments based on their own personal discretion. However, with alimony laws that were passed in January 2014, things changed. One of the big impetuses for this change is the fact that due to it being up to the judge’s personal discretion instead of something more verifiable, there was a greater chance that Coloradoan couples seeking divorce or separation may have an alimony payment decision made that is not to the satisfaction of one of them (either the one paying or the one being paid, depending on if it was regarded as too high or too low for what the one paying earns).

With the creation of this new alimony law, judges were given guidelines and recommendations to help them figure out the proper alimony rates. Basically, the court takes 40 percent of the earnings of the higher-earning partner and 50 percent of the lower-earning partner’s earnings. After this, the court takes the difference in income and divides it by 12. This will then provide an idea of what the monthly alimony payment should be. However, while this is a key aspect of determining alimony, it is not the only thing that can be used to determine it. For instance, property division is an important factor; if the lower-earning spouse received the house, that may contribute to their final determination of what the alimony payment should be. Financial resources are also going to make a huge deal for this. After all, if the lower-earning spouse has significantly more financial security, they obviously need less alimony payments than if they lacked that.

Child support and child custody are also going to be an important factor, due to there being more money needed for the parent who is expected to or who is spending the most time and money on the child’s upbringing. A partner having chosen to put their career and/or education on hold in order to take care of children will also play a role in the judge’s final determination as well. Despite all of these guidelines, the judge is still given some level of discretion in handling how much money the alimony payments amount to, but these guidelines help a lot in providing a structure for the judge to follow in making this determination. The judge is also responsible for more than just determining the amount of money that one party is expected to pay. Indeed, the judge also determines how long the alimony payments last for, which is also determined by a formula. The judge takes 45 percent of the amount of time the couple was married, and that is how long the alimony payments last. While a lot of states have made a point of eliminating lifelong alimony, Colorado is one of the exceptions to this. While lifetime alimony is not going to be the case in all divorces and separations, if the marriage has lasted over 20 years, the one paying may wind up with lifetime alimony.

All too often, alimony payments, no matter if they are handled in Colorado or any other state, can go poorly for someone all because they did not receive adequate legal counsel to represent them in their case. While divorce, even alimony, is not necessarily going to be contentious, particularly if the person who would be expected to pay alimony is happy to pay what they owe in order to help their soon-to-be ex-spouse stand on their own two feet more easily, there are going to be plenty of contentious divorces and separations. And if you ever find yourself in one of these contentious splits, having quality legal representation on your side will ensure that you get the outcome you deserve from the trial. Divorce attorneys with years of experience will be able to do a world of good to help argue to the judge to view the various circumstances that surround you and your spouse or former spouse in a light that is favorable to you. For example, they can help you make the argument that your spouse has financial security and thus does not receive as much alimony, or perhaps you could argue that because you take far more care of the children than they do, you need to receive more alimony so that they can get the upbringing that they would have gotten if they were raised with both of you living under the same roof together.