Alimony Reform: Introducing Alimony Guidelines

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Monday, November 18, 2013.

Reform is in the air. Florida legislators are already speaking about a new bill to modify alimony. But it is not just Florida reviewing its alimony laws, other states are in various stages of reviewing and amending their state laws too.

The most recent change is Colorado, where couples will face dramatic changes in the way alimony is considered after a new state law goes into effect on January 1st. According to the Denver Post:

“It’s groundbreaking legislation,” said Heidi Culbertson, director of client development at the Harris Law Firm, which specializes in family law. “For the first time, Colorado will have a formula for maintenance.”

It is part of a national alimony reform movement, with many state legislatures seeking to either limit or standardize spousal maintenance payments. In particular, the focus has been on the lack of consistency in maintenance orders, which resulted in perceptions of unfairness and the inability to predict outcomes.

Along with Florida, a number of states – like Maine, Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and New Jersey – have considered introducing alimony guidelines to calculate alimony the way all states use child support guidelines to calculate child support payments.

The Colorado law provides a formula for the calculation of alimony. Alimony is equal to 40% of the higher income party’s monthly adjusted gross income less 50% of the lower income party’s monthly adjusted gross income. There are exceptions, and there is a cap.

The new statute does not apply to families with joint income over $300,000. For those cases, courts will continue to weigh a number of discretionary factors, including the parties’ unique financial circumstances and the length of the marriage.

Interestingly, Colorado’s alimony guidelines are only advisory to the courts, a sort of starting point in deciding how much and for how long an alimony award should be. The judges still maintain discretion. This is very unlike child support, where the discretion of a trial court is mostly removed.