HB 12-56– Formula for Maintenance in a Dissolution of Marriage Action, sponsored by Beth McCann, was tabled for 2012 under pressure from the Colorado Bar Association CBA Family Law Section with the agreement a task force would be established to study the issue. Under current Colorado law (C.R.S. 14-10-114), spousal support (alimony) is not set by a rigid formula but rather is set by judges on a case-by-case basis after considering a laundry list of subjective factors. Under the proposed bill, there would be to categories of maintenance: reimbursement/transitional maintenance for marriages lasting less than five years and general maintenance for marriages lasting longer than five years. Reimbursement maintenance would be to repay a spouse for expenses or economic contributions made during the marriage (e.g. a spouse paid for the other spouse to attend college). Transitional maintenance would be very short term awards to help the parties transition to new living arrangements. General maintenance would be a presumptive amount based on the parties’ adjusted gross incomes and the length of the marriage.
Many states currently use a formula to determine maintenance (much like child support is determined in Colorado today). The Family Law Bar has consistently opposed adopting a formula for maintenance. The reasons for the opposition are many such as 1) a formula for maintenance leaves the court with less flexibility when dividing property; 2) a formula for maintenance ignores the unique circumstances of each case (e.g. a spouse like a professional athlete may make a lot of money today but not much at all next year). There are a few, myself included, who feel the opposing has more to do with a desire to keep the issue muddy and encourage expensive litigation on the subject. My personal belief is a formulaic maintenance statute that allows a court to deviation from the formula if it would be inequitable is appropriate. The cost of family law litigation, as a percentage of the assets, has become outrageous. The fewer items that the parties can fight about, the better. Yes HB 1256 needs some work but rather than tabling it to have a task force “study” it is really just a veiled effort to kill the bill.