Marriage is more than an emotional bond, it’s also a legal contract. Ending that legal contract has consequences which sometimes include orders for spousal support, maintenance, or alimony — all terms used to describe one spouse’s order to pay a monthly monetary amount to the other party during a separation or after a divorce.
Colorado law explains the idea behind alimony as necessary to level the playing field in cases where the economic relationship in a marriage can’t be fairly separated due to both parties’ decisions and contributions to the marriage. For example, when one spouse devotes years to establishing a home and/or raising a family leaving the other with more freedom to advance a career.
Alimony payments limit the effects on one spouse that may be unfair based on the combined economic circumstances and standard of living during the duration of the marriage. State courts may issue alimony orders to protect one party against poverty that might otherwise require them to depend on the state unnecessarily when the other spouse has the means to alleviate the poverty. If you have questions about your divorce and if you are eligible to receive alimony, speak with an experienced Denver alimony lawyer.
Are There Limits to the Use of Alimony?
While child support payments are intended specifically to pay for food, shelter, medical care, and education of minor children and may be subject to auditing in some cases, there are no limits as to what a payee can use their alimony for. When a court makes a determination for alimony payments, the intention is to sustain the lifestyle the spouse enjoyed during the marriage after the marriage ends to the extent possible based on the finances of the payer. If during the marriage a spouse enjoyed a lifestyle that included vacations, a nice home, new cars, and an ample wardrobe, then the alimony serves to continue the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to during the duration of the marriage.
In other cases, alimony may only be a reasonable amount to ensure a spouse is able to continue paying bills and basic necessities until they are self-supporting. While the amount of alimony depends on the living circumstances of each couple, there are no limits placed on alimony usage in Colorado.
Factors that Determine Alimony
Courts take many factors unique to each case into consideration when determining alimony amounts. Some of what the Colorado courts look at to determine alimony include the following:
- Standard of living enjoyed during the duration of the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- The recipient’s economic means and lifestyle
- The ability of the payer to support him/herself while still maintaining the other
- The time it might take the recipient to train or educate him/herself for a new career or to return to a past career
It’s important to understand that in Colorado there are no limits on the duration of alimony payments in marriages that lasted over 20 years. In some cases, a judge may award a spouse alimony for the rest of their life.
Types of Alimony
In Colorado, there are five types of alimony a court may order depending on the unique circumstances of each divorce:
- Temporary alimony during separation and while the divorce proceedings take place
- Rehabilitative alimony while the receiving spouse finds or reestablishes a career to become self-supporting
- Reimbursement alimony to repay financial contributions one spouse made during the duration of the marriage such as through the sale of inherited property or paying for the spouse’s education. This type of alimony lasts up to 5 years
- Separation alimony is paid during separation for up to 3 years until reconciliation or a finalized divorce
- Permanent alimony is paid by one spouse to the other indefinitely beginning after a finalized divorce
While permanent alimony may indeed be permanent, especially in cases of ill health, advanced age, and disability, it isn’t always permanent. For instance, when a spouse remarries alimony orders automatically cease. Payers can also file a petition for alimony modification when appropriate and a court will decide on the merits of the modification.