Spousal and Child Support
Every parent has a legal obligation to support his or her own children. Like all states, Colorado has a strong interest in seeing that parents fulfill this legal obligation. The court may order either parent to pay what it considers to be a necessary and reasonable amount of support for the children.
To determine a reasonable and necessary amount for child support, the court will look to the schedule of basic child support obligations defined by Colorado law. The statute that spells out this schedule is often referred to as the child support guidelines. These guidelines take into consideration the gross income of the parents, the number of children, the amount of time the children spend with each parent, ordinary expenses of raising children, and any obligations for the support of children from other marriages. Day care costs and extraordinary expenses, such as private school or therapy, may raise the amount of the required support obligation. If a court issues a child support order which deviates from the support amount derived from the schedule in the guidelines, the court is required to articulate its reasons for the deviation.
There are several possible methods for attempting to collect child support. One method is obtaining an assignment of the obligor’s wages. All states have laws to enforce child support orders issued by their own courts and by the courts of other states. Support obligations are taken seriously by courts and may be enforced even when the person obligated to pay support moves out of state, although actually collecting child support is often a difficult task.
“Spousal Maintenance” is today’s term for what used to be called alimony. The general purpose of maintenance is to ensure that a spouse who needs and deserves financial support receives it for an appropriate period of time following the divorce.
In determining what, if any, maintenance is to be awarded, the court is to take the following considerations into account: (1) Does the spouse seeking maintenance have sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs? (2) Is the spouse seeking maintenance able to support himself or herself through appropriate employment? (3) What are the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance? (4) What time is necessary to allow the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment (or acquire sufficient education or training to do so)? (5) What was the standard of living established during the marriage? (6) How long did the marriage last? (7) What is the age, physical condition, and emotional condition of the party seeking maintenance? and (8) What ability does the other spouse have to pay maintenance?
The court may also (but is not required to) take into consideration the advisory “maintenance guideline” established by Colorado statute. The guideline uses a mathematical formula to determine the monthly amount of maintenance due from one spouse to the other. To reach the “guideline” amount of maintenance due, 50% of the lesser-earning spouse’s gross monthly income is subtracted from 40% of the higher-earning spouse’s gross monthly income. The resulting number may not exceed 40% of the parties’ combined gross monthly income. The maintenance guideline also calculates the duration of maintenance payments in a formula based on the length of the marriage.
In some cases, the parties may agree to a particular maintenance schedule and the court may adopt that agreement as its order. In other situations, the parties may dispute the amount or duration of maintenance, or even the need for maintenance. In that instance, the court will consider the above criteria in making its decision.