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In many marriages, there is a disparity between spousal incomes. When one spouse is a high earner, the other may be able to afford to leave the workforce to raise any children they may have. Or, they may also choose to pursue a career that is personally rewarding, rather than lucrative.

This situation may mirror you and your spouse’s. If you two are planning to divorce, you will likely wonder if this disparity will cause you to pay or receive spousal maintenance, depending on your role. While it may, it is important to understand if Colorado’s guidelines would lead to these outcomes, given your circumstances.

Determining the value of spousal support

Colorado’s spousal maintenance guidelines apply to couples whose combined gross income is $240,000 or less. If you and your spouse’s combined gross income exceeds $240,000, the court will use its discretion – based on your unique financial situation – to determine the duration and value of spousal maintenance.

Whether you are paying or receiving spousal maintenance, your award’s base value will depend on the difference between you and your spouse’s incomes. The state’s formula for calculating this value is by taking 40% of your combined monthly gross income and subtracting the monthly gross income of the lower earner – whether you or your spouse. If this figure is negative, no maintenance will be awarded.

To account for taxes, the value of your spousal maintenance award will reduce by 20% if your combined monthly gross income is $10,000 or less. If your combined monthly gross income is over $10,000, yet no more than $20,000, your award’s post-tax value will reduce by 25%.

Determining the duration of spousal support

The duration of your spousal maintenance award will depend on how long your marriage lasted. If it lasted for less than three years, it is unlikely that spousal maintenance will be a factor in your divorce. Yet, if your marriage lasted for more than 20 years, it is possible that any spousal maintenance awarded could be long-term or indefinite. If your marriage lasted for between three and 20 years, your award’s duration will be a percentage of the total number of months you were married for. You can determine this length by consulting a table set forth by the state.

Both payors and recipients of spousal maintenance must understand how an award could affect them. By familiarizing yourself with Colorado’s guidelines, you can prepare yourself for its possible financial impact.