ADVISING DIVORCING CLIENTS ON COLORADO'S SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE RULES
Changes to Colorado’s spousal maintenance laws have made it easier to predict what payments if any, one ex-spouse will have to make to the other. There are a number of factors used to determine spousal maintenance rates, and they include:
• Income from each party — A percentage of the higher-earning spouse’s income minus a percentage of the lower-earning spouse’s income is used to set the required payment amount.
• Financial situation — The overall financial status of each partner is used to assess whether the statutory support amount is fair or should be granted at all.
• Marriage duration — The longer you were married, the longer you may be qualified to receive spousal maintenance.
The statutory formula applies to couples with a combined monthly income up to $240,000. Our lawyers will advise how the calculation applies based on your specific situation.
Your Denver divorce attorney can also assist you with understanding how the court determines the length of alimony payments. The general guidelines tell courts to determine the length of alimony by the length of the marriage.
The guidelines state that you can only receive alimony if your marriage lasted at least three years. It provides time limits for payments for marriages lasting three to 20 years. There is a chart telling the length of alimony based on percentages. For example, a three-year marriage results in 11 months of alimony, which is 31%, and a marriage of 20 years results in 10 years of payments, which is 50%. The percentage increases with the number of years of the marriage until 12.5 years when it becomes 50%, which is the maximum allowed for marriages 20 years and under.
For a marriage over 20 years, the law allows the judge in the case to determine the length, which could be for life. Alimony ends when you or your former spouse dies or if your former spouse remarries.
SKILLED LEGAL ADVICE TO HELP YOU ATTAIN EQUITABLE PROPERTY DIVISION IN DENVER
When a married couple divorces in Colorado, assets acquired during the marriage are allocated by the court based on the principle of equitable distribution. This division is not necessarily a split down the middle, however. Judges will seek to find a fair way to divide property such as homes, vehicles, bank accounts and other financial assets that are part of the marital estate. We will advocate strongly for a fair solution that encompasses all marital property, including items such as retirement benefits and business interests that are sometimes overlooked.
MARITAL VS SEPARATE PROPERTY
To better help you, your Denver divorce attorney needs to get an idea of your marital and separate property. The court will only divide the marital property. Your lawyer will want to ensure that any property you claim as separate does not end up mislabeled by the court.
Marital property is essentially anything you acquired during your marriage. Separate property is anything you owned before your marriage.
While that may seem simple, there are exceptions. These are types of property that you may get during the marriage but that remain separate property:
• Inheritances • Gifts • Property obtained using separate property assets
You also may have a prenuptial agreement that lays out property ownership terms. The court will abide by that agreement if it holds up legally.
Sometimes, it is possible for separate property to become at least partially marital property. For example, if you use marital assets to upkeep a separate asset, then the court may rule part of that asset's value is marital property.
Property division can become very complex. You need a lawyer who can help you determine the ownership rights of every asset you own so that there are no questions and you can get all the property you should in the divorce.
You need to think about debts as well. The court must also divide them during the property division process. The court handles debt in the same way it handles assets.
Any debt you had prior to the marriage becomes your responsibility alone. Those debts you incurred during the marriage become the responsibility of both of you. Again, though, this can become tricky when you have comingled debts and they represent debt from prior to or after the marriage.
For example, if you had a credit card before your marriage but you kept that card open and continued using it after your marriage, then it could become partially separate and partially marital. You need your Denver divorce attorney to help you figure out how to label the debts you and your spouse have.
Furthermore, you want to ensure that there is fair distribution of the debts and that whoever the court orders to pay a debt will pay it. Even with a court order, the creditor will still hold the person with whom it made the original deal responsible for paying it.
Considering the credit card situation again, if the court says your spouse will have to be responsible for repaying that but then he or she fails to make the payments, you may end up having to pay the debt. If you don't, then it will go against your credit record.
The reason for this is that you have a contract with the creditor. The court cannot change that contract. It can only make an order for you and your spouse. You will have to take legal steps against your spouse for not obeying the court's order, but in the meantime, to protect your credit, you will have to pay the debt yourself.
This is where your attorney can help immensely. He or she can assist you with avoiding such a situation and reacting quickly if your spouse decides to ignore a court order.
SECURING HELP WITH PARENTING TIME AND PLANS
The legal term referring to child custody and visitation in Colorado is parenting time. It can be a complex part of your divorce because you both want to share in raising your children. In some situations, there may be concerns about safety for the children as well, which makes such decisions all the more important.
When it comes to parenting time, the court prefers that you come to an agreement where the children have equal or almost equal time with each parent. If this is not possible, you should use equal parenting time as the starting point for negotiations to reach a plan that works the best for the children.
Your Denver divorce attorney will understand the court's position and help you to negotiate and work with the other parent to reach a parenting time plan that suits. If you cannot reach an agreement outside of court, then your attorney will be able to present your case to the court and look out for you during the litigation process.
Note that any move the court makes considers the children's best interests over anything else. It wants to ensure the children are safe and happy while also having the ability to develop meaningful relationships with both of their parents.
The only exception where the court will favor one parent over the other is in cases of abuse or where the children could be in danger due to one parent's actions. You need to show solid evidence for the court to severely limit the other parent's rights to see the children and be in their lives.
Our attorneys understand that child custody issues are incredibly stressful. We also understand the goals of the court, which enables us to steer you in the direction that's most likely to result in a favorable outcome.
ADVOCATING FOR PARENTS IN CHILD SUPPORT DISPUTES DURING DIVORCE
Noncustodial parents of minors are legally bound to provide financial support for their children. Colorado has established a formula that approximates the required payment rate in most cases, based on each parent’s income, childcare costs, and health insurance expenses. Using this calculation, our lawyers will help you anticipate what you can expect and ensure that accurate information is presented to the court.
We also work on behalf of parents to enforce child support orders when terms are violated. Likewise, when a significant change in circumstances means that an existing order is unfair, we will apply for modification of the terms.
CONTACT A DEDICATED DENVER DIVORCE LAWYER FOR AN INITIAL CONSULTATION
Johnson Law Group, LLC, is the divorce attorney in Denver, CO, that will represent Colorado clients with divorce, divorce mediation and modification, and other family litigation.
If you are struggling with any aspect of the divorce process, including alimony, child custody or property separation, contact Johnson Law Group. Our team of lawyers is experienced in all aspects of divorce law and well-versed in Denver’s laws and regulations. You do not need to endure this difficult journey alone. Get the help you need.
Please call 720-463-4333 or contact us online for an initial consultation at our Denver office.
Answers to the Most Common Questions About Divorce
Once you have decided to end your marriage, what is the first step you should take? While going through a divorce can be incredibly painful and emotional, you need to know how the process works to make the best decisions for your future. You’ve come to the right place for help with the divorce process in Denver. Read more to familiarize yourself with the issues of divorce so you can better understand the financial and legal ramifications of starting a divorce proceeding.
ARE THERE RESIDENCY LAWS FOR DIVORCE?
Before you can start any legal proceeding, you need to research Colorado’s residency requirements. Before filing a divorce petition, meet with experienced Denver divorce attorney Johnson Law Group to ensure you can forward with a formal written request for a divorce.
Resident laws require you to have lived in Denver for a minimum amount of time before you are eligible to apply for a divorce. In most counties, the period required is one year. If you or your spouse are currently living in another state, a waiting period may apply.
WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE?
The grounds for divorce are the legal reasons on which you are basing your request that the court allows you to end your marriage. Typically, grounds fall into one of two categories: no-fault and fault-based grounds.
Fault-based grounds require you to show some evidence that your spouse committed an act such as adultery, cruelty or desertion that has caused the marriage to end. While there are not many benefits to filing for a fault-based divorce over a no-fault divorce, you may receive sympathy from the judge when determining alimony or the division of marital assets.
No-fault divorces are more common than fault-based divorces and are primarily based on irreconcilable differences. In short, filing for a no-fault divorce means you and your partner can no longer get along and you do not believe that relations will improve in the future. No-fault divorces are common for a variety of reasons. First, you do not have to show evidence that your spouse did something wrong. If you are not accusing your spouse of wrongdoing, the divorce process generally takes less time and causes less anxiety and tension.
HOW DO I FILE FOR DIVORCE?
The divorce process legally begins when you complete the appropriate paperwork and file it in a Colorado court. A complaint or petition begins the divorce process. The Johnson Law Group can help you prepare and file all divorce documents, including the petition. A complaint is a specific petition to the court to end your marriage. Parties are referred to as either the "plaintiff" or the "defendant" in a complaint, while they are referred to as "petitioner" and "respondent" in other petitions.
After the complaint is filed, your spouse will be notified. The complaint can be delivered to your spouse in person or the document is sometimes allowed to be mailed. After your spouse has been served with the appropriate paperwork, court proceedings are officially started.
A multitude of factors can impact the divorce process. Some couples choose to divide property and set up custody agreements without involving lawyers. However, most couples use lawyers to ensure their interests are best served in court. Mediation is also an option for those who want to deal with the divorce outside of court.
HOW IS CHILD CUSTODY DETERMINED?
If you and your spouse have children, custody will likely be the main issue in your divorce. Colorado law dictates that all custody issues are settled with the best interests of the child in mind. When possible, this usually means having both parents involved in a child’s life.
Joint legal custody is often the best outcome when it comes to a child custody case. In joint custody cases, both you and your spouse have a say in the child’s education, upbringing and medical treatment. However, joint legal custody does not necessarily mean joint physical custody.
If you have joint physical custody, the child spends the same time living with each parent. However, this may not be feasible for several reasons. Typically, the judge grants sole physical custody to one parent but provides the other parent with pre-scheduled visitation and parenting time. Most judges recommend the noncustodial parent spend one or two evenings a week and every other weekend with the child.
DO I NEED TO PAY ALIMONY?
Alimony is commonly referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance. Most judges do not award permanent alimony. Instead, many courts award alimony for a limited period of time. For instance, one type of spousal maintenance is called rehabilitative alimony. Courts sometimes award this for a fairly short period, typically two years or less. The support ends when the courts believe a partner can viably enter the workforce and earn a living.
Some courts award reimbursement alimony. This type of spousal support is awarded when one spouse contributed to the other’s college education or career. The theory behind reimbursement alimony is that spouses need to be repaid for costs they incurred for the benefit of the other partner.
Regardless of the type of alimony being awarded, courts often consider the following factors when awarding spousal maintenance:
• A spouse’s need for support • A partner’s ability to pay • Each spouse's job history • The duration of the marriage • Each spouse’s income • Each spouse’s education level • Each spouse’s childcare duties • The division of property
Historically, the male in a partnership often paid alimony to the female after the dissolution of a marriage. However, this trend is quickly changing as more women are earning higher incomes than men and more men choose to stay home with children.
Our experience, dedication to Colorado families, and our success in each case we represent sets us apart from the competition. We are passionate about family and estate law. Our highly-qualified team will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible results in your case.
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Johnson Law Group, LLC is located in Denver, CO and serves clients in and around Englewood, Denver, Aurora, Littleton, Wheat Ridge, Adams County, Arapahoe County and Denver County.
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