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New Colorado law aims to make alimony awards fairer

Divorces are never easy and affect every aspect of a couple’s life. The financial impact on both spouses is real and often very challenging. In many Colorado divorce cases, spousal support or alimony is ordered to be paid from one partner to another. The amount of money and length of time over which it is to be paid can vary greatly depending on the specific circumstances of each marriage and divorce.

While each divorce is unique, the state of Colorado has passed new legislation that is designed to make spousal support awards more uniform and, ideally, more fair to all parties. The law will take effect on January 1, 2014 and be applicable to any dissolution case filed after that date.

A formula for spousal maintenance

The heart of the new alimony law is a formula that is to be used as a guideline for determining what is an appropriate amount and time period for such payments. For two-income households, the formula deducts 50 percent of the lower annual income from 40 percent of the higher income and then divides that figure by 12.

Other components of the law include:

  • Maintenance for stay-at-home parents is factored at 40 percent of the sole wage earner’s income.
  • The total support amount should not be more than 40 percent of the combined incomes.
  • Payment should be made for a time period equivalent to 45 percent of the duration of the marriage.
  • Marriages that have lasted less than three years should not be eligible for spousal maintenance awards.
  • Marriages that lasted more than 20 years would be eligible for lifetime support payments to the lower wage earner.

To illustrate an example, imagine that a couple had been married for 10 years exactly and one spouse’s annual income was $100,000 and the other spouse’s income was $60,000. If the formula was strictly followed, the first spouse would be ordered to pay $833.33 per month for a period of 54 months.

Law is intended to be a guideline

Use of the formula is not mandated but is recommended. It can be utilized as a guideline to help level the playing field and prevent radical variances between support awards in differing divorce cases. The ultimate decision on alimony awards will still be up to the courts and can deviate from this formula if cause to do so is proven.

Close legal help is important

The implementation of a new law governing such an important part of many divorces makes the need for proper legal counsel even more important. If you are facing a divorce, you should make sure to consult with a family law attorney to ensure that you are adequately represented and protected.