On this latest episode of Divorce at Altitude, Ryan and Amy offer an in-depth analysis of spousal support laws and guidelines through a Colorado lens, discussing the role of income thresholds and individual earnings in determining maintenance. They also dissect a revealing Custody X Change study, providing our listeners with a comprehensive understanding of the comparative alimony landscape across the nation.
Navigating the discrepancies of spousal maintenance can be a daunting process, which is why they meticulously dissect case scenarios from various states, emphasizing the factors that influence both the duration and amount of maintenance awarded. With a focus on real-world implications, we shed light on the judicial discretion that can significantly alter outcomes in high-income and high-asset divorce cases. Moreover, they also tackle the pressing issue of inflation and how outdated laws fail to reflect current economic realities, advocating for vital legislative updates.
What is Divorce at Altitude?
Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado.
To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here. If you have additional questions or would like to speak to one of our attorneys, give us a call at 970-429-5784 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DISCLAIMER: THE COMMENTARY AND OPINIONS ON THIS PODCAST IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND NOT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE OR AREA TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE ON ANY OF THESE ISSUES.
Hey everyone. I'm Ryan Kalamaya. And I'm Amy Goscha. Welcome to the Divorce at Altittude, a podcast on Colorado family law. Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me, I know. Besides being an experienced Divorce attorney, I'm also a Divorce client. Whether you or someone considering Divorce or a fellow family law attorney, listen in for weekly tips and insight into topics related to Divorce co-parenting. And separation in Colorado.Ryan Kalamaya:
Welcome back to another episode of Divorce at Altitude. This is Ryan Kalamaya. This week, we're going to be talking about spousal maintenance, and I'm joined by my co host, Amy Goscha. How are you, Amy? Good. How are you doing, Ryan? I'm good. We're going to talk about money. We've been on a spousal maintenance and alimony train. So let's ride that up the mountain and down back the backside. So this week, what what are we talking about in particular with a spousal maintenance? We're going to be lookingAmy Goscha:
at Colorado and also the maintenance guidelines, but also how there's such a variance between just the United States and different states. So that's really interesting. And I think will be helpfulRyan Kalamaya:
for people. Yeah. A study was done by a custody exchange on alimony across the country. And listeners may recall, I've had Shea Drefts from the custody exchange to come in and talk about the rates of settlement for parenting They have a whole host of different studies that they've done. This one in particular we thought would be interesting for people to to hear our take and how Colorado stacks up with other states. And so we'll get into that. Amy just for working knowledge, just generally we've talked before about Alimony and spousal maintenance in high income divorces. That was episode 185. We've also come up with, a series of how to podcasts, but just the general definition and purpose of spousal maintenance, can you clue listeners in on what the purpose and definition of spousal maintenance is? Really,Amy Goscha:
The definition of spousal maintenance is a need to the spouse that doesn't make as much in a marriage and I'll be asking you, Ryan, some more specifics in Colorado, but it really is to bridge that gap from when you're married and you have all of the money and then you're dividing it up for spouses to move forward in their lives. So that's just it. The general premise of that. And then there's, if people have children, then there's also child support, which is separate.Ryan Kalamaya:
And as I have broken down in some of these how to episodes there are a bunch of factors that the court has to take into consideration. And when I say the court, divorce lawyers like us, we also take into consideration and people doing it on their own, they should as well. And the statute is 1410. 114. And really there's a variety of factors. It's age, health, economic circumstances. Our hypothetical divorce clients, Eric and Melanie Wolfe, if Melanie gets a rental property, that's going to be considered because it's going to generate income. But another factor that Colorado has that we'll get into in terms of the study that's unique. So Colorado has a guideline or a formula. Now that formula It it is supposed to end or not apply when Eric and Melanie make a combined amount of 240, 000 per year or, if it's more than that, then the guideline for the amount does not apply and the formula for the 240, 000. Amount, and I'll talk about the duration next, but the duration or the amount is supposed to be the 40 percent of the parties combined monthly adjusted income. So if Eric and Melanie if they make You know combined amount 100, 000 in a year, then you take 40 percent of that and then you reduce it by if Melanie is the less the lower income, producer whatever her income, is and so it's a formula and it applies for 240 even you and I were talking about the 240 000 threshold it's interesting because that hasn't been updated as we are discussing inflation any thoughts onAmy Goscha:
that? Yeah, you and I were just discussing how various things have been updated for inflation, and that just has not been taken into account in Colorado. What's interesting is that the combined gross income for even the child support statute in Colorado has been updated to, at least 360, 000. So I think You know, there is a need in Colorado to, to update that. And one question I have for you, Ryan. In Colorado, is this formula, is it presumptive or is it just something that a court can take into consideration when looking at whether or not to award spousal maintenance in a divorce?Ryan Kalamaya:
Good question. We get asked that all the time. So it, under the law, it is, it's not supposed to be presumptive. It's supposed to be one of the factors. And one thing that we'll talk about, Amy, is Just how that can vary in terms of judge by judge. There's certainly judges that I am aware of who they use the formula and that's what they do. And there's, they're, by law, they are required to have the other factors, but that is just it's almost a rubber stamp. It's not supposed to be, it's supposed to be one of factors. One of the many factors along with the age and some of these other things but then also in terms of the duration the duration, there is a formula for the duration that's not, that's irrespective of the amount and to put a little bit more context in terms of what we were talking about with the 240, 000, this standard deduction by the IRS has increased. And that is because of inflation and the social security payout has increased and that's because of inflation. And so generally in the age of inflation, people are making more money. They're spending more money because things cost more. And that's just the whole principle of inflation. But that 240, 000, we had Robin Beatty on to talk about the updates with the law on the 14 10 114 with the statute but it, that was several years ago and we've had, some notable inflation since then and they haven't updated it. It is something that is a little bit unique, but Amy, let's talk about, we've referenced this custody exchange study. Do you want to give listeners maybe just a little high level insight into what the study showed. Yeah, soAmy Goscha:
custody exchange essentially took a specific scenario. So in their scenario, they had a husband who made 665, 000. The wife made 35, 000. They had 2 children. So they looked at across the country. And I think there were, 12 states that had essentially a formula. So they ran the formula under that scenario and they found that. Louisiana had the highest amount that, under that scenario that a person would receive spousal maintenance. It was upward of, 1, 700 or something around there. So there just was such a variance between, the formulas. There are certain states that don't have formulas and under that scenario the wife would not have received any spousal maintenance. And those would have been states such as New Mexico, Texas. And then there was one other state. So just seeing the variance across the United States is very interesting, but also concerning, for a divorced couple going through this process.Ryan Kalamaya:
Yeah, for anyone watching, you can see I've done a screen share here from the Custody Exchange. And for those that can't listen, you can check out the video or go to the Custody Exchange's website, but they have these graphs and that other that third state that you referenced as you can remember, Amy was Virginia where I went to college. And so I think, it's one of those things where. I've talked with Brian Walters on this podcast about the difference between Colorado and Colorado and Texas in terms of outcomes. Separate property we've talked about before. The way that Colorado views separate property is markedly different from other states. And, according to the study and it makes sense to me. It's very different in terms of alimony. And it's great if you're Melanie Wolf and you are getting a divorce and you're being, you're receiving maintenance in Louisiana because you're going to get substantially more than you would compared to Virginia where you're not going to get any. And, Colorado really falls within the, right in kind of the middle. So when you're comparing Colorado, we, it's in terms of venue or form shopping, we are right in the middle. So there's nothing that was really sticking out. If we move on, I think it's also helpful for people to know that in Colorado, according to the study, the average amount that was awarded was 417 per month. And that is, I think, helpful, Amy, to maybe put into context what judges in Colorado see, don't you think?Amy Goscha:
Yes, absolutely. And one thing I would say about the states that, that like Louisiana and also Florida, they didn't even take into consideration the lower spouse's income at all. So that reflected in why the amounts were so much higher,Ryan Kalamaya:
right? Yeah. And if we go back, yeah they did not melt whatever Melanie Wolfe made. They don't consider it in Colorado and they've changed that. They have changed the statute in Colorado in terms of how that is analyzed. But in, in Colorado, you do take into consideration the spousal or the. Melanie Wolfe's income but I think that the, that amount is helpful to know in terms of Colorado, the 417, because that then is going to be what the judge, if you go to a court, that's the, that's what they are most often seeing. And I think that's helpful just to know that. So if you're asking for substantially more than that, then, that the judge, it might raise some eyebrows. Amy, maybe you could you maybe comment about the state by state versus in Colorado. It's, it could be county by county.Amy Goscha:
Yeah. In Colorado. You're in the mountains. I'm in the metro. Depending on the judge, we could end up with a different, maintenance amount. And so the concern is that we need to make sure that people have some certainty across the state, but also across the nation. So I think that's. Just showing a trend of needing to look at this information and making sure that it's based off of. Real financial circumstances.Ryan Kalamaya:
Yeah, you're exactly right. I talked with Robin Beatty about the kind of the manner in which the legislature passed the guidelines. And I remember Amy, we've been doing this long enough that I remember when we did not have the guidelines. Divorce lawyers freaked out. They're like, we're going to be out of a job. It's not just a formula. And they were against it. And they, that, those fears, I think, prove to be unfounded. And, as we've discussed in, especially in our previous episode, The guidelines do not apply or the amount does not apply to high income cases whether it's 240 or 260, depending on inflation is, it does not apply in those high income situations. I think, moving on to the duration this again was interesting. That I thought that it was interesting in the sense that not every state that even has a guideline on the amount has a guideline for the duration in Arizona the minimum was six months and that's in Arizona and then in color air in california the Minimum recommendation was 48 months, but again, Colorado, we fall right within the middle and the duration. The average duration is 39. So that gives us a total amount of maintenance. If you multiply 417 per month by 39 months, that gets you to 16, 000 and change. And any thoughts on the duration aspect compared to other states, Amy? Yeah, I think it'sAmy Goscha:
important to note that under this scenario, it was a marriage that was eight years. So what that means is marriage of 8 years that essentially it would be 6 months in Arizona and then 48 months in California. So just seeing that. Duration discrepancy, even across the states is concerning. Because, depending on what state you live in, they gave an example of, if the, if this party, if these, if this family lived in Kansas versus California the. Husband would be paying, 10, 000 more and spousal maintenance if he was in California versus Kansas. So seeing that discrepancy, is concerning because parties need to have some. Certainty. And it shouldn't just depend on the state that you're living in.Ryan Kalamaya:
And I think my observation is, and I frequently share this with clients is that, that amount people that's like a real amount to people. So each and every month. And so the difference between a thousand dollars per month and 1, 200, they can really wrap their head around that. So like the 200 difference is okay. That might be A night out or doing something at a restaurant or they can really conceptualize that 1, 200 versus the 1, 000. The duration that is where people, I think, really have a hard time, especially the recipient. The recipient, they don't, it's hard for them to delineate between four years and five years and it's as much smaller number, right? But it really does make way more of a difference. The difference between five years and four years is going to be substantially greater than that 1200 versus, a thousand. And so that is where I think, people, they don't understand about the guideline duration and I've heard some judges they have made the comment that Colorado or that the guideline duration is they feel too long. And if you look at the study, we, we are a little bit on. The higher side for the length or the duration California, as we mentioned before, has the longest duration. And then again, Florida. Florida is a great place for Melanie Wolf to go through a divorce and receive spousal support, but Colorado is not, they're not too far. Off in terms of that top section. And so I have seen judges reduce that duration and they've made the comment that they feel like that's too long.Amy Goscha:
And I had a slew of cases, and I'm sure you have, where there's long term marriages. And when you're looking at the guideline in Colorado, the duration amount goes to 10 years. And so the question is the guideline doesn't apply. to marriages over, 10 years. And also if you have a high asset cases, maybe there's not a need for maintenance. So even though it's a long term marriage there might not be a need. So there might be zero maintenance in those circumstances.Ryan Kalamaya:
And we've talked about there, I've had several cases where people, they move from a state such as California. We do have a lot of California transplants, New York especially up in, in the mountains. And one presentation or tactic or argument is a, these people, they lived in this particular area. That's where the, in the maintenance statute or the maintenance would be acts in this state versus, Colorado. Ultimately the judge is going to sit there and say, I'm a Colorado judge. I want to apply Colorado law, but it gets into the kind of fairness, the equities of, the where and to compare and contrast. I think the research. Presentation and, we looked at these graphs in terms of trial presentation, and we're going to have a different episode on preparation for mediation and preparation for trial. But, in my practice, I've found those graphs to really show, how long and how much are these requests and maintenance. What is that, what does that really mean? And when you can show, hey, Melanie Wolf is asking for X. Eric is proposing why what is really the difference because you could say you know It's a thousand dollars per month over x amount of months if you compare that to twelve hundred dollars, it just is like it's to make it less abstract But I think again that gets down to the judge How willing like you got to know your judge it can vary from county to county judge by judge And this again highlights the study The difference between Colorado and other states, it can be dramatic and I think it's helpful for people to understand where does Colorado just on an average stack up and then how, what a difference, a judge or a state, what that can really be a substantial amount of money. Any other kind of closing thoughts Amy on this particular issue?Amy Goscha:
I think for me, just looking at the study can help us with updating the combined gross income and really, trying to make it so it's more fair for people going through this. So that's really, what my takeaway has been.Ryan Kalamaya:
And so an example may be that if you're in front of the court and the combined income is 260, 000, you could make an argument. Of course, if it's going to benefit your client, Hey, judge, like they didn't, the law did not take into account inflation. And we recognize that the law does not, it just hasn't been updated. And we think that's probably an oversight, but this 240, 000. Then is the equivalent to what it is now and making some of those arguments or, asking for the legislature to change and being just mindful of those kind of oversights and how we compare to other states. Thanks for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. Hopeful that you, or I hope that you found this episode helpful. If so, please tell a friend and give us a like on whatever podcast platform you listen to. But until next time thanks for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. hey everyone. This is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on Divorce at Altittude. If you found our tips, insight, or discussion helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast. For show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode, visit Divorce at Altittude dot com. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen in. Many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and. Law or 9 7 0 3 1 5 2 3 6 5. That's aaa.