Divorce cases can be complicated, and no two cases are the same. However, there are some issues fairly common to many divorces. One such issue we frequently encounter is with regard to spousal maintenance. You might know it as “alimony” or “spousal support” or by some other name. Whatever you may call it, chances are that if you’re getting a divorce, the issue may come up at some point in your case, and you may end up having to support your ex. This article is aimed at providing a brief overview of some of the contours of spousal maintenance.
Family law is the law of equity — or the law of trying to promote outcomes that are fair or equitable to both parties. Spousal maintenance is the monthly payment of one individual to their former spouse. The spousal maintenance obligation is the law’s recognition that in order to promote equity, one party ought to have a claim or an entitlement to a portion of their ex’s income.
The fairness of spousal maintenance becomes more clear when you consider the idea of a married couple. In a marriage, two individuals join together, pool their resources, and make a commitment to work towards a common goal. During a marriage, the couple may develop spending patterns, may become accustomed to certain lifestyles, or may get used to having certain comforts. Should that couple divorce, the law acknowledges that simply because a relationship ends, the individuals shouldn’t have to experience some sort of lifestyle shock of sorts. Therefore, spousal maintenance is a payment intended to provide some insulation during the transition from a married couple to single life.
As discussed above, maintenance is (at least in part) based upon the lifestyle to which a party has grown accustomed during the marriage. Usually, a person’s lifestyle correlates to some degree to their income. In Colorado, statutes provide a suggested method by which to calculate a suggested maintenance obligation. That guideline amount is based upon a formula. The formula provides that maintenance can be determined by taking 40% of the higher person’s income and subtracting 50% of the lower person’s income from that. Therefore, the guideline doesn’t seek to place the individuals on the same footing, but rather one of minimized disparity.
While it may be a hard pill to swallow, maintenance is a reality to a great many divorce cases. It may seem unfair to you that your spouse may have stayed at home with the kids while you were off hard at work. However, if you consider the realities of this situation, one spouse’s contributions are primarily of a monetary nature. The other spouse’s contribution is of a different nature (i.e. raising the kids, meal preparation, household chores, grocery shopping, etc.). Therefore, in reality, the stay at home spouse’s contributions are often times substantial, despite any difficulty in assigning a cash value of such contributions.
Furthermore, a spouse who elects to stay at home, or possibly work less than another spouse often suffers as a result of this decision. They may lose opportunities to develop their career or skills and may not be readily marketable in their field of choice. Therefore, maintenance is calculated to help these spouses by providing a safety net of sorts while they get back on their feet.
Spousal maintenance is a fairly common issue in divorce cases. Although it may be difficult to hand over a portion of your income to your former spouse, it’s a reality you may have to face. If you’re seeking maintenance, or if you’re worried about having to support your ex, take the time to speak with an attorney. At Modern Family Law, we dedicate our practice to family law. Give us a call today to speak with one of our family law attorneys for a free consultation.
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