Calculating temporary alimony can be a contentious process.
In Part I of my series about alimony in Colorado (which you can read here), I discussed how alimony (officially called “maintenance”) is awarded as part of temporary orders while a divorce is pending. Specifically, that post dealt with the formula that is presumptively applied when the parties earn a combined annual income of $75,000 or less. In this post, I will continue with the discussion of temporary maintenance (that is, maintenance awarded before the divorce is final) for situations in which the spouses together earn more than $75,000 per year.
When the husband and wife’s combined annual income is greater than $75,000 per year, there is no presumptive formula or guideline for the court to apply. As such, the amount to be awarded is determined on a case-by-case basis. Each case is different, and different judges will calculate temporary alimony differently.
Step 1. Is a spouse eligible for temporary maintenance?
Temporary spousal maintenance is designed to equalize the finances until the divorce is final.
Alimony is a payment of money from one spouse to another for the purpose of financial support or equalization of incomes. In Colorado, alimony is technically called “spousal maintenance.” There are two kinds of spousal maintenance: temporary and permanent. Temporary maintenance is the payment of money from one spouse to the other before the marriage has been dissolved (i.e., before the divorce is final). Permanent maintenance–what most people think of when they hear the term “alimony”–is the payment of money from one former spouse to the other after divorce.
In this article, I will discuss temporary maintenance when the spouses earn a combined annual income of $75,000 or less. In future articles, I will discuss 1) temporary maintenance when combined annual income exceeds $75,000; 2) permanent maintenance; and 3) other aspect of alimony, including modification, termination, and tax treatment.
A very interesting article in the Huffington Post this morning, written by divorce lawyer Beverly Willett, entitled, “Are Stay-At-Home Parents At Financial Risk During Divorce?“ Willett writes,
In practical terms, if the breadwinner leaves, the first risk faced is lack of immediate access to funds. Even if you have a joint bank account, your spouse might decide to open a new one in which to deposit paychecks. Joint stock or savings accounts may require joint approval for withdrawals. This could leave stay-at-home parents hostage for money until they are able to secure a temporary order of support as well as funds with which to defend themselves. For that, they’ll undoubtedly need to hire an attorney and pay a retainer, unless the lawyer is willing to wait.
Indeed, the non-working spouse is at the greatest risk when the divorce was not anticipated. Unfortunately, most states have adopted no-fault divorce grounds, permitting one spouse to the union to seek divorce unilaterally, regardless of the other spouse’s wishes. In Colorado, the cause of the breakup of the marriage is not admissible in the divorce. Courts will not consider which spouse is at fault when weighing how to divide property “equitably.” The benefits the innocent spouse expected to receive from the continuation of the marriage are not deemed relevant, even when it comes to the award of spousal maintenance. Willett continues,