In most states,obligees (people receiving support) who were married for sixty minutes or sixty years can get alimony. We’ll explore how long do you have to married to get alimony? As stated above, once married you’re eligible.
Generally, the length of the marriage is one of many factors which determine the amount of alimony (spousal support). In many states the length of the marriage is the primary factor, at least in most cases.
For more on how alimony is determined at the end of a marriage in Colorado, click here.
What is Alimony?
Alimony might be the most controversial family law topic. Historically, going back to the Code of Hammurabi in 1700 B.C., alimony is connected to a dowry, which is the money the husband’s family paid the wife’s family upon the couple’s marriage.
Over the centuries thereafter, alimony changed to suit one of two purposes. A few states, such as New Jersey, have very generous alimony laws. Most obligees are eligible for long-term payments that equalize the standard of living between the ex-spouses. A few other states, such as Texas, have very limited spousal support laws. A few obligees may be eligible for some money to meet immediate economic needs.
This economic need is easier to establish if the obligee was financially dependent on the obligor and the obligor blindsided the obligee with an unexpected divorce filing.
Today, some people, mostly obligors (people paying spousal support), believe alimony is more outdated than the leisure suit. Other people, mostly obligees (people receiving spousal support), claim alimony is the only thing that keeps them out of the poorhouse.
We won’t examine these broad issues in this article. But we will address specific questions, like how long you have to be married to get alimony.
Note that terms like alimony, spousal support, and spousal maintenance are basically interchangeable. Most states use maintenance and support to bring these payments in line with child support. Also, most states like to avoid using the A-word.
How Much Alimony Can I Get?
The answer to this question largely depends on the state where you reside. As mentioned, some states used fixed guidelines. Calculating spousal support is almost like calculating child support. Other states have such strict alimony requirements the topic isn’t worth discussing.
Most states use several factors to determine the amount and duration of spousal support payments. We’ll examine some of the most common factors, including how long you must be married to receive alimony payments. Afterwards, worth reading more on is alimony taxable?
Length of the Marriage
Long marriages involve sacrifice. Typically, this sacrifice includes giving up possible career advancement to become a primary caregiver.
For example, Lisa might take an adjunct (part-time) professor job so she can spend more time at home. Her sacrifice allows her husband, Professor Tom, to climb the ladder from full professor to tenured professor and so on.
Short marriages often don’t feature that kind of long-term sacrifice. Lisa might be an adjunct for a few semesters, but then she’d start climbing the ladder again.
Spouses who make such sacrifices, whether economic or noneconomic, deserve credit for them during the property division phase of a divorce case. This principle is repeated in other alimony factors.
Additionally, most states are equitable division marital property states. A divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden on either spouse.
From a financial standpoint, divorce disproportionately affects women for many years. The poverty rate among divorced women is significantly higher than the poverty rate among divorced men.
Based on this statistic, unless women receive spousal maintenance, they bear the brunt of the divorce, financially speaking.
Current Financial Status
Divorce orders don’t affect non-marital property, which as a rule of thumb, is any property acquired before the marriage or by gift. In many cases, the property is significant, especially if the spouses have been married before.
The marital/nonmarital division can be complex. Assume Lisa had a $100,000 IRA before she married Tom. That money is hers and not subject to equitable or other property division. If that’s the case, Lisa’s argument that she needs substantial alimony might fall on deaf ears.
This point also brings up premarital agreements. Prenups often designate property as yours, mine, or ours. Furthermore, these agreements often sharply limit future alimony payments.
In most states, such an agreement is enforceable unless it was unconscionably one-sided, Tom handed Lisa a prenup as the organist began “Here Comes the Bride,” or one party committed fraud.
Future Earning Capacity
Typically, young, healthy, and well-educated people have a higher future earning capacity than older, sickly, and poorly-educated people. If the future income gap between the spouses is likely high, the obligee’s case for spousal support is stronger.
Future income capacity varies. Lisa’s short-term income potential is much lower than Tom’s. However, once she gets back in the career saddle, her long-term income potential is probably equal to or greater than Tom’s. In such situations, courts often award temporary spousal support to fill in this temporary gap. More on that below.
Additionally, Tom’s current and future income capacity is relevant to this discussion. Lisa must prove that she has an economic need and Tom has the ability to pay. If Lisa is desperately poor and so is Tom, the court won’t award alimony. The same is true if Tom is wealthy and Lisa is capable of supporting herself.
Noneconomic Contributions to the Marriage
We mentioned this principle above, regarding how long you have to be married to get alimony. Noneconomic contributions to the marriage is also a standalone factor in many states. Some lawyers refer to it as the homemaker factor.
This factor is significant if the obligee was a stay-at-home parent. The percentage of households with a stay-at-home parent (usually mom) has risen significantly in recent years. That’s especially true if the stay-at-home parent chose between caregiver and breadwinner.
In other cases, witness testimony and other evidence helps establish the division of labor between the spouses. Even if both they work, one spouse typically does most of the ironing and child-wrangling.
Property division, alimony, and child custody often overlap. For example, it’s usually in childrens’ best interests for them to remain in the family home. If a court awards child custody to a stay-at-home mom, she might need help with mortgage payments and other household expenses, at least until her income increases.
In addition to the core factors discussed above, courts may also consider other factors, such as the tax consequences of alimony payments.
The law recently changed drastically on this point. Before 2019, alimony receipts were tax-reportable and alimony payments were tax-deductible. Now, tax reporting is optional and the payment deduction is gone.
Additionally, most state laws include a “catch-all” factor. Judges may consider whatever circumstances they believe are relevant to a fair and equitable property division.
How is Alimony Calculated?
Once again, the method varies. In guideline states, simple math usually determines the amount and duration of payments. In factor states, this question is much more complex, as outlined above.
Regardless of the exact method, the process usually begins with a basic monthly financial profile, including information like:
- Basic Needs: How much do the spouses spend on reasonable needs, such as food, healthcare, housing, and other needs? A judge might or might not believe that calling Uber Eats every night is a reasonable need.
- Monthly Income: This inquiry includes cash income as well as non-cash income, such as housing or vehicle allowance. Once again, the income must be reasonable. Obligors and obligees cannot quit high-paying jobs so they appear destitute.
Duration of Payments
Next, the inquiry moves to the duration of payments. Several types of alimony are available in most states, including:
- Temporary: We mentioned the jobless, blindsided spouse above. These individuals usually need help not only paying basic living expenses but also immediate divorce-related expenses, such as property rental deposits and attorneys’ fees.
- Rehabilitative: Temporary alimony ends when the judge signs the divorce decree. Some spouses need more help before they can become self-sufficient. For example, an obligee might have to complete her degree and take a low-paying job before she can get a high-paying job. Most states limit rehabilitative alimony to about two years.
- Permanent: In this context, “permanent” usually means “long term.” This form of spousal support, which is usually tied to the length of the marriage (e.g. ten years of payments following a ten-year marriage), permanently redistributes income between the spouses. Truly permanent alimony may be available if the obligee is severely disabled and cannot work.
The factors which determine the amount and duration of payments change frequently. So, alimony awards are subject to modification, based on changed financial circumstances.
Changed emotional circumstances, specifically the obligee’s remarriage, might come into play as well. In most states, remarriage terminates alimony payments as a matter of law. A judge could also terminate payments if the obligee is in a marriage-like romantic relationship with another person.
What disqualifies you from alimony in Colorado?
In Colorado, conduct like marital misconduct typically does not disqualify someone from receiving alimony. However, the ability to be self-sufficient or having sufficient property to provide for one’s needs may affect alimony eligibility.
What affects alimony in Colorado?
Alimony in Colorado can be affected by factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial resources of each spouse, the lifestyle during the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the age and health of the parties involved.
How do I avoid spousal support?
Avoiding spousal support in Colorado may involve negotiating an agreement with your spouse, showing the court that your spouse doesn’t need support or is self-sufficient, or demonstrating that you lack the ability to pay.
Do I have to support my wife during separation?
During separation, you may be required to support your wife if she is unable to support herself or if there is a legal agreement or court order in place requiring you to do so.
What happens if one spouse doesn’t want a separation?
If one spouse doesn’t want a separation in Colorado, the other spouse can still pursue a divorce as Colorado is a no-fault state, and mutual consent is not required to dissolve the marriage.
Do I have to financially support my wife?
You may be required to financially support your wife if there is a disparity in earning capacity, especially if she has been dependent on you during the marriage or if a court orders you to provide support.
Is spousal support mandatory in Colorado?
Spousal support is not mandatory in Colorado; it is awarded based on the circumstances of the divorce and after considering various factors such as the financial situation of both parties and the length of the marriage.
How much is alimony in Colorado?
The amount of alimony in Colorado is not fixed and varies on a case-by-case basis. The court takes into account factors like the income of both spouses, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living established during the marriage.
Is Colorado an alimony state?
Yes, Colorado is a state where alimony, known as “spousal maintenance” in Colorado law, may be awarded during a divorce proceeding based on various factors and the discretion of the court.