New Ruling Regarding the Interpretation of Colorado's Maintenance Statute
Colorado’s maintenance statute previously set out factors for the court to consider, but then left the term and amount up to the discretion of each individual judge. In an effort to streamline the orders and have some consistency across the state, new maintenance guidelines were put into effect in January 2014. The guidelines were “advisory” rather than presumptive, but our Northern Colorado courts have been following them pretty closely.
The formula for maintenance is 40% of the higher income earner's income minus 50% of the lower income earner's income, with a cap of the lower income earner having a total of 40% of the parties' combined incomes (C.R.S. 14-10-114.) The duration is then based on the term of the marriage. The court was still directed to review the original factors to determine whether maintenance was appropriate, and those were all reasons the court could deviate from the advisory calculation.
A case just published by the Colorado Court of Appeals reiterated that neither the guidelines formula, nor the 40% of combined incomes "cap" in the statute, are binding on courts (In re: the Marriage of Vittetoe, 2016 COA 71). Maintenance still is up to the discretion of the court, after consideration of all of the factors and review of the advisory amount. This ruling makes it all the more important that any person arguing for or against a maintenance award be prepared to address all of the relevant issues, and show the court the financial impact of any such award.
If you have questions about maintenance, contact our Longmont family law attorneys for a free initial 30-minute consultation.