Step 5: Property, child custody and spousal support
Almost always, the major points of contention in most divorces involve issues of property division, child custody or spousal support. If you and your spouse fail to come to an agreement on these issues, you should know how Colorado courts often rule.
Colorado bases its property distribution upon the principle of equitable division, which allocates property fairly but not necessarily equally. Colorado courts consider many factors about property at issue, including:
- If it was owned prior to marriage
- If it was received as a gift or inheritance
- The fair value of the asset
- Any increase or decrease in value during the marriage
- How much either spouse contributed to its acquisition
- The financial situation of both spouses
Once the marital property and debts are identified, they are assigned a monetary value, usually by an independent appraiser.
Division of property may occur in several ways. Colorado courts favor a 50/50 division when it comes to marital property, but they may use many methods for the actual distribution. Indivisible assets may be provided to one spouse, while another asset of equivalent value is assigned to the other spouse; or they may be sold with profits divided accordingly. In some cases, property may be co-owned by both spouses.
Debts are distributed wholly to one spouse or the other, relieving the other of almost all responsibility. While the judge may assign a debt to one party, the other spouse may be allocated a similar sized debt.
As in most states, Colorado determines “parental responsibilities” based on the best interests of the child, and usually awards joint custody to both parents. The judge will consider many factors including:
- Parent’s wishes
- Child’s preferences
- Emotional relationship with parents
- Ability to adjust to new setting
- Physical and mental health of parties involved
- Proximity of parents’ homes
- Past instances of domestic violence
Colorado does not grant preference based on parent’s gender or any misdeeds of spouses that contributed to the marriage’s dissolution.
Spousal support or spousal maintenance, as it is known in Colorado, is not mandatory and a judge may award it depending upon several factors:
- Future earning capacity of both spouses
- Each spouse’s educational level
- Time needed for professional training or education
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Ability to pay maintenance
- Length of the marriage
- Age and health of each spouse
Colorado courts prefer to grant temporary alimony, except in cases where one spouse is unable to work due to poor health and maintenance may go on indefinitely. The length of the marriage often influences how long alimony payments must be made, but other factors including time needed for professional preparation are also used in the judicial formula. The courts apply a strict set of rules to determine the amount of maintenance; if the couple earns less than $75,000 annually, a spouse is awarded 40 percent of the higher earner’s monthly income minus 50 percent of the lower earner’s income.