Maintenance (formerly alimony)
Maintenance, formerly called alimony is a minefield and is an area where nice guys can finish last. Maintenance is based on your wife’s needs vs. your ability to pay. The law states that she has a right to be supported in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed.
Conversely, if your wife was the primary breadwinner, and you were dependent on her income to maintain your lifestyle, you may also be a candidate for maintenance. The law is gender-neutral on this issue, and a maintenance award is solely based on incomes and standards of living. Since men historically earn more than women, men are most frequently the ones who pay maintenance.
Information on Maintenance in Colorado
Effective January 1, 2014, Colorado adopted a new maintenance statute and included “guidelines” as to the amount and term of maintenance. Although judges are not required to follow the “guidelines”, the trend has been that Colorado judges are using them.
When a party is requesting maintenance, pursuant to C.R.S. §14-10-114 (3) (a) (I), the court must consider the following:
- The amount of each party’s gross income;
- The marital property apportioned to each party;
- The financial resources of each party, including but not limited to the actual or potential income from separate or marital property; and
- Reasonable financial need as established during the marriage.
B. After considering the above factors, the court shall determine the amount and term of maintenance, if any, that is fair and equitable. In doing so, the judge must consider the guideline amount and term of maintenance.
If the parties have been married for at least three years, the “guidelines” establish a presumptive amount and duration of maintenance depending on the length of marriage.
C. After considering the factors referenced above in A and B, the court shall award maintenance only if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him or her, to provide for his or her reasonable needs and is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it inappropriate for the spouse to be required to seek employment outside of the home.
Prior to the enactment of the new statute, Courts generally did not award lifetime maintenance except in exceptional circumstances. Courts awarded rehabilitative maintenance giving the spouse seeking maintenance a period of time wherein they could re-educate themselves, obtain vocational training, graduate from school and obtain full-time employment, or otherwise become financially independent.
The new statute presumes a life-time maintenance award if the parties have been married more than 16.5 years.
Contractual and Non-Modifiable Maintenance
The Court’s authority to modify maintenance can be limited by the agreement of the parties. The parties may choose to agree to an amount of maintenance for a specific period of time, and divest the court of jurisdiction to change their agreement.
Depending on your financial circumstances and your future earning potential, contractual and non-modifiable maintenance may be beneficial. However, it could also be financially devastating. Before agreeing to contractual and non-modifiable maintenance, you need to make sure you understand what it is.
For example, if you agree to contractual and non-modifiable maintenance, then win the lottery, your spouse CANNOT modify or change the agreement no matter how much you make.
Conversely, if you agree to contractual and non-modifiable maintenance, then lose your job, you CANNOT modify or change the agreement no matter how little you make or if you make nothing.
Enforcement of Maintenance
Maintenance may be enforced via an income assignment. Essentially, your wages can be garnished.
The court can also order you to maintain a life insurance policy to secure payment of the maintenance award.
Termination of Maintenance
Maintenance is terminated upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance unless otherwise ordered by the court or agreed in writing.
Cohabitation alone is not sufficient to modify maintenance.
Modification of Maintenance
Generally, a modification of maintenance is retroactive to the date of the filing of a motion to modify unless the court finds that it will result in undue hardship or substantial injustice.
Maintenance may be modified only upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unfair.
BEWARE– If you lose your job or receive a substantial pay cut, you MUST file a motion to modify maintenance as soon as possible to protect yourself. Do NOT rely on your ex-wife’s promise or agreement to reduce or forgo maintenance for that time period, even if she puts it in writing. Unless and until a court enters an Order modifying maintenance, you will remain obligated for the amount of maintenance currently in place.
Sharon D. Liko, P.C. has fought for men’s rights in Colorado courts for 30 years. They understand the difficulty men face when ordered to pay maintenance and contribute to the support of two households, rather than enjoying their previous lifestyle where one and possibly two incomes supported one household.
Sharon D. Liko, P.C. endeavors to limit the man’s exposure to a claim of maintenance. Often times, advance planning is priceless in situations where a man has been the primary breadwinner and the wife has been a stay at home mother or homemaker.
Sharon D. Liko P.C. located in Denver, Colorado, handles maintenance cases throughout the Denver metro area, and the state of Colorado, including Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County and the communities of Littleton, Englewood, Centennial, Castle Rock, Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Golden and Arvada. Ms. Liko is also admitted to practice in the state of Texas.