August 7, 2013
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, National Parents Organization

For the first time, Colorado has a clear formula for the calculation of alimony. The new legislation, House Bill 13-1058, goes into effect January of 2014.  Governor John Hickenlooper signed it on May 10, 2013. 

The alimony legislation, referred to as the Maintenance Act, defines the state’s new guidelines for the determination of spousal maintenance. Maintenance is the amount of court ordered spousal support paid by the higher earning spouse to the lower earning spouse each month for a specified period of time following a divorce or legal separation.

The formula states that the amount of maintenance is equal to forty percent of the higher income party’s monthly adjusted gross income less fifty percent of the lower income party’s monthly adjusted gross income. There are some exceptions, and there is a cap, but this is the first time that Colorado has had a formula.

The new statute does not create a presumption that the lower earning spouse will receive a maintenance award. The court must first review both spouses financial circumstances before making the determination that higher-earning party should be required to pay maintenance to a lower-earning party.

Neither the factors nor analysis regarding spousal maintenance is new. What is original about the Spousal Maintenance Act is that it provides a formula to calculate maintenance and some guidelines for the courts to use to determine the monthly amount and the duration of maintenance. Until now, the determination of maintenance was discretionary and maintenance awards were perceived to be very inconsistent. The amount or term of maintenance varied widely by jurisdiction in cases involving similar factual circumstances. The guidelines now provide a starting point for maintenance awards that are intended to result in awards that are more fair, equitable, and consistent.

One important note is that the guidelines do not apply to families with joint income over $300,000. For those cases, the courts will continue to weigh a number of discretionary factors, including the parties’ unique financial circumstances and the length of the marriage.

Under the new Maintenance Act, the court will analyze the facts of the case and consider factors that include:

  • The actual or potential income and financial resources of the spouse requesting maintenance;
  • The requesting party’s financial needs;
  • The income and financial resources of the paying spouse;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The lifestyle established during the course of the marriage;
  • How the marital property will be distributed following the divorce or legal separation;
  • The amount of temporary maintenance that was paid while the divorce was pending;
  • The age and health of both spouses.

The following legislators sponsored this groundbreaking change in Colorado alimony:
Representatives Elizabeth McCann (D-8), John Buckner (D-40), Lois Court (D-6), Randy Fischer (D-53), Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-10), Daniel Kagan  (D-3), Jeanne Labuda (D-1), Claire Levy (D-13), Mike McLachlan (D-59), Diane Mitsch Bush (D-26), Dan Pabon (D-4), Sue Schafer (D-24), Dave Young (D-50), Rhonda Fields (D-42), and Su Ryden (D-36); and Senators Andy Kerr (D-22), Irene Aguilar (D-32), Lucia Guzman (D-34), Rollie Heath (D-18), Linda Newell (D-26), and Pat Steadman (D-31).

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"I am excited to join National Parents Organization as their Military Parent Advocate. Military families are being broken apart because of a lack of understanding in the family law courts. I believe that children benefit from access to both parents, regardless of their military status. I look forward to advocating for legislation that protects military parents against discrimination in child custody determinations."

By Janet Graham, Military Parent Advocate