Maintenance/Alimony in Colorado: How is the decision on maintenance made?

I hear from people all the time that are wondering if they will be able to request maintenance/alimony in their divorce proceeding. Although there is a formula in Colorado for most cases of child support, maintenance is decided by a Judge on a purely subjective basis.

The “Reasonable Needs” test:
Colorado Courts are bound to decide issues of maintenance on the basis of the ability or lack of ability of the party requesting maintenance to meet their “reasonable needs” without financial assistance from the other party.

You can see that this first step allows for many subjective determinations. What are the “Reasonable Needs” of a particular individual? Colorado Law sets out a number of issues for the Court to look at to make this determination. These include:

— Age and physical condition
— Allocation of marital property to the individual in the divorce
— Child Support given to the individual
— Separate property of the individual
— Standard of living during the marriage
— Length of the marriage
— Discrepancies of income between the parties
— Income potential and the need for further education and training

Two Part Test:
There is a two part test for the Court to rule on in maintenance cases. First, the threshold issue the Court decides is if the party meets the reasonable needs test. If the Court finds that the party is unable to meet their reasonable needs, looking at the factors above, then they move on to deciding what amount of maintenance is warranted and for how long.

Many Moving Parts Require Strong Advocacy:
So, as you can see, there are many things for the Court to look at in determining if there will be maintenance awarded and, if so, how much and for how long. This is not the type of decision that you would want the Court to make without good solid representation. There are divorce cases where a an attorney with good advocacy skills is not necessarily needed. When you have a disagreement over maintenance, you definitely need good representation and strong advocacy to influence the Judge in their decision making process. It is worth the investment.

Settlement of Maintenance Issues:
It is possible to come to an agreement on Maintenance and not involve the Court. It is important, however to be as prepared in your negotiations as you would if you were preparing for Court. You must have a full understanding of all of the financial issues, full disclosure of all financial information and a good understanding of the relevant employment and health issues of the person requesting maintenance.

Experts may be Needed and are Worth the Investment:
In many cases, there are experts required to be fully prepared for settlement negotiations on maintenance. There are experts that can calculate scenarios that show what is necessary to equalize the parties financially out into the future. There are also experts that determine the financial needs of someone with significant medical issues and experts that assess future earning capacities and the need for further education. All of this costs money and yet it can make the difference between a fair settlement and one that leaves one spouse severely impacted by a bad financial agreement.

The Bottom Line:
The bottom line is that if you have been married for a significant period of time and there is a large discrepancy between your income and your spouse’s income, you should consider making the investment into preparing well with a good family law attorney to support a request for maintenance. It is a solid investment in your long term future.