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Getting Divorced? What You Need To Know About Spousal Support

Monday, 24 February 2014

spousal maintenanceWhen clients walk into their first consultation with a Colorado Springs divorce lawyer, they usually learn a lot about the divorce process and the laws about Colorado, but many people leave without asking about spousal support. Interestingly, when both parties in a divorce are working full-time, it is just assumed that neither will qualify for spousal support, but that is not always the case. Oftentimes, there is enough of a disparity in their personal incomes to make a case for one party receiving spousal support, or spousal maintenance.

Spousal Maintenance in Colorado

Formerly known as alimony and spousal support, spousal maintenance is a sum of money paid by one former spouse to another for the purpose of enabling that spouse to support him or herself immediately following a divorce. Spousal maintenance is more likely to be awarded in divorces where one spouse is more economically dependent on the other, but is it normally awarded on a temporary basis. Unlike alimony, which was more likely to be permanent, spousal maintenance allows a certain amount of time for the lower-income spouse to acquire education or job training and find suitable employment.

How much spousal maintenance can you expect to receive?

The actual amount of spousal maintenance one can expect will depend greatly on the couple's former standard of living. It is usually set at a high enough to allow the recipient to enjoy a similar standard of living as they did while married, without placing undue hardship on the spouse who is ordered to pay. State law in Colorado dictates that spousal support calculations must be based on the combined annual gross income of the couple.

Guidelines for calculating spousal maintenance in Colorado

If you and your spouse have a combined gross income of $75,000 or less, the court must use an established formula to calculate the amount of spousal maintenance. This amount is calculated by subtracting 50 percent of the income of the spouse who earns less from 40 percent of the income of the spouse who earns more. For example, if one spouse earns $1,800 per month and the other earns $4,000, the calculation would be: $1600 - $900 = $700, which is nearly half of the lower earning spouse's income. Support will not be awarded in cases where the figure results in zero or less than zero.

If your combined household income is greater than $75,000, the court may award a temporary order of spousal support. This is done when the recipient of spousal support lacks sufficient assets or property to provide for his or her reasonable needs and/or cannot immediately become self-sufficient through employment. An award of spousal maintenance may also be granted to the spouse who is required to stay at home and care for a child.

Factors that are considered when deciding the amount of maintenance include:

The length of the marriage
The amount of time needed for the recipient of spousal maintenance to get the required education to find suitable employment
The established standard of living that the couple enjoyed during the marriage
The age and physical health of the party requesting spousal maintenance
The ability of the paying spouse to support himself or herself while making the required payments

How can a Colorado Springs divorce attorney help with spousal maintenance?

While these general guidelines about spousal maintenance can be helpful, only an experienced divorce lawyer can successfully navigate family court in Colorado. In a hearing to establish spousal maintenance, an attorney can introduce evidence or extenuating circumstances that might influence the outcome of the judge's decision. When you contact a Colorado divorce lawyer about establishing spousal support, be sure to ask for a free consultation.

In most cases, a simple petition will be filed on your behalf with the Colorado domestic relations court in your area. This petition may generate a scheduled conference with a support master, who will help you and your spouse apply the state's standard calculations and arrive at an agreement on the amount. While this type of conference is usually helpful for educating the couple, it might not be possible to agree on the amount. A longer hearing may then be required , where a judge will use the evidence presented as a guide to making a fair decision.

Photo Courtesy of StockImages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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