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Alimony can help a stay-at-home spouse get back on their feet

Colorado residents who've been through a divorce know that the financial adjustment can be a challenge, to say the least. This is especially so for a former spouse who elected to put a career on hold to stay home and care for the children. The story of one woman provides a good illustration of how tough it can be to reenter the workforce.

The 40-year-old woman was married for 14 years. She has a B.A. degree in communications, has worked as a substitute teacher and has been active in volunteer work at her church. But during the marriage she was a full-time mom, caring for the couple's three daughters, ages 6 through 12, at home. She has been unable to find a job that will cover all her expenses. She is now working part time as a barista at a coffee shop. To make ends meet she and her daughters have moved into her mother's home.

Unfortunately, the woman did not have a lawyer in her divorce proceedings.

When one spouse has given up a career to care for the children, it is critical for that spouse to ask the court for an award of alimony, also known as maintenance or spousal support. In Colorado, advisory guidelines are used to calculate a monthly payment amount. The court takes 40 percent of the higher paid spouse's income, subtracts 50 percent of the other spouse's income, and makes some additional adjustments to arrive at a final number. The guidelines are advisory only and the judge is not obligated to follow them; if circumstances justify it the judge can choose not to follow the guidelines. Having an experienced family law attorney in your corner during divorce proceedings can help a spouse get what they are entitled to and avoid costly mistakes.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "After divorce, a mother needs a financial overhaul and more income," Ronald D. White, March 16, 2014

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