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New Colorado alimony law takes effect Jan. 1

Alimony, known in Colorado as maintenance, has been a controversial topic around the country in recent years. A number of states have passed laws designed to make maintenance payments more objective and predictable. Colorado recently joined that movement, and its new state law on maintenance takes effect on January 1 of next year.

The new law, which will apply to all divorce cases filed on or after January 1, sets forth advisory guidelines for judges to follow in setting a monthly payment. The guidelines will be used to calculate the amount of maintenance, and the period of time for which it must be paid, for marriages which lasted from three to 20 years and in which the spouses' combined incomes were $240,000 per year or less.

The basic formula for setting a monthly payment under the guidelines starts with 40 percent of the monthly income of the higher-earning spouse, and then deducts 50 percent of the other spouse's monthly income. The resulting number is modified further, depending on whether the couple has children. The length of the marriage will determine the duration of time over which support must be paid.

Because the guidelines are advisory only, there is a great deal of uncertainty over how closely judges will adhere to them. If they are applied consistently across the state, the guidelines will foster predictability, which in turn will foster settlements. As in any area of family law, when spouses can agree on something between themselves, they will save time and money and likely end up with an outcome that is more favorable to both parties.

Source: Denver Post, "New law changes alimony landscape for divorcing Colorado couples," Colleen O'Connor, Oct. 18, 2013

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