Going through a divorce is never easy, but in marital circumstances in which one spouse has been out of the workforce for years, it’s even more challenging and emotionally fraught on both sides. The non-working spouse may worry about being left unable to support themselves, while the working spouse may resent the idea of continuing to support an ex-spouse after the divorce. During a Colorado divorce in a marriage in which one spouse is the sole provider, it’s important to understand each party’s rights and obligations are under the law.
Does a Non-Working Spouse Automatically Get Alimony in Colorado?
Spousal support (alimony) is never automatic in Colorado. Instead, a judge looks at each unique situation before deciding on spousal support, only in divorces in which spouses are unable to come to mutually agreeable terms on their own in a settlement agreement. In Colorado, a judge only makes decisions on spousal support after the division of marital property.
In Colorado, divorcing spouses must make full financial disclosures and divide all property and assets accumulated during the marriage in a way that’s fair and equitable if not 50/50. In addition, each spouse retains property that belonged solely to them before the marriage or was inherited by them or gifted to them during the marriage.
When judges awards spousal maintenance to a non-working spouse, it’s almost always an order for temporary maintenance for a set period of time, during which the non-working spouse is expected to find employment or further their education with the goal of future self-sufficiency.
What Does a Judge Consider When Making a Decision to Award Alimony?
In some marriages, one spouse puts their own career goals on hold or sacrifices them completely to support their spouse’s further education and career. In other instances, one spouse drops out of the workforce in order to focus on raising children and taking care of the household. In these cases, the courts consider the non-working spouse as entitled to a portion of the working spouse’s income, since their sacrifice contributed to their spouse’s success in the workplace to the detriment of their own.
When deciding on spousal support in Colorado, a judge considers the following:
- Each party’s gross income, which may be zero for a non-working spouse
- Each spouse’s portion of the marital property
- Each spouse’s financial resources
- Reasonable financial needs as established during the spouses’ marriage
- The tax implications of a spousal maintenance order for both parties
- The lifestyle or accustomed standard of living established during the marriage
- Whether or not the non-working spouse has young children at home or a child with special needs that limits the spouse’s ability to work
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of each spouse
If a dependent spouse has a disability or an illness that prevents them from working, a judge also considers those unique circumstances when making a legal determination on spousal support.
Colorado Court’s Formula for Determining Spousal Support
Colorado has a formula to determine the amount of spousal support a higher-earning spouse must pay a lower-earning or non-working spouse; however, a judge in a Colorado divorce has the discretion to order spousal maintenance above or below the standards of the guidelines according to the unique circumstances of each case.
If you and your spouse are trying to figure out alimony payments, you might need help from a Denver family lawyer from Ciancio Ciancio Brown, P.C. today.