First of all, remember that Colorado is a no-fault divorce state! Parties can get divorced for ANY reason. So, when is spousal maintenance awarded and why? Think of spousal maintenance as a “get-back-into-the-workforce” payment plan. With the exception of an older party in retirement, the concept of spousal maintenance is to temporarily aid one party so that they can “get back on their feet” and become independent again. Rule of thumb is the “one-third; one-third” formula. Don’t quote us on this, but conceptually, think of spousal maintenance this way: Parties were married for twelve (12) years; one party was a stay-at-home parent for the length of the marriage to care for the children; the working parent makes $60,000 a year or $5,000 a month; thus, the non-working (although some would argue being a full-time parent is definitely working!) gets $20,000 a year (monthly? You do the math) for four (4) years. So, one-third; one-third.
In reality, though, this calculation is all over the map. The Court will take into consideration the length of the marriage; what was the non-working spouse doing prior to the marriage; is the non-working spouse marketable; how quickly will it take for the non-working spouse to get back into the workforce; how old is the non-working spouse, etc. Also, the Court can impute income to the non-working spouse if they are readily marketable and relatively young. What does that mean? Say, the non-working spouse is a thirty-five (35) year-old psychologist who took some time off to raise the children, but still kept their licensure in order. The Court probably won’t go by “one-third; one-third” rule, rather, the Court will inquire as to how long it will take for the non-working spouse to re-establish their practice and then adjust maintenance accordingly.
Free legal tip: Spousal maintenance is neither a penalty to the payor nor a windfall to the payee. It’s simply a mechanism for one party to re-establish their independence. That said, are there times when maintenance could be indefinite? Yes. Say, the parties were married for over forty (40) years; the non-working spouse was a stay-at-home parent for that period of time, plus more; and the working spouse cheated on the other party. Could the Court award maintenance for life to the non-working spouse? Absolutely. If the non-working spouse is in retirement-age, why should the Court force them to re-enter the workforce? The Court probably wouldn’t.
Please call Law Office of John Waters at (303) 629-6900 to schedule your free initial consultation. Thank you.