August 17, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Statutory Maintenance Guideline Formula Advisory, Not Mandatory

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Marriage of Vittetoe on Thursday, May 5, 2016.

Dissolution of MarriageMarital PropertySeparate Property—Gift—MaintenanceGuideline.

In this dissolution of marriage proceeding, the primary issues at the permanent orders hearing concerned the division of the marital estate and wife’s maintenance request.

On appeal, wife contended that the district court misclassified a home as marital property and thus erred in including it as part of the marital estate. Specifically, wife argued that the home was her separate property by virtue of a resulting trust, or, alternatively, that the home was a separate gift and the court should have divided only the marital increase in value. Wife’s mother (mother) lived in the home throughout the parties’ marriage, and her 1977 will stipulated that her real property be held in trust and “used in the manner that is most beneficial to my children.” In 2005, mother recorded a quitclaim deed that listed herself and wife as joint tenants. When mother died, the home passed to wife. Wife argued to the district court that in executing the quitclaim deed, mother intended for wife to hold the home in trust for the siblings but did not intend for wife to obtain any beneficial interest in the home. There was sufficient evidence in the record to support the district court’s conclusion that no resulting trust formed and that mother intended for wife to take a beneficial interest in the home. However, the district court’s findings on whether the home was a gift are insufficient. The case was remanded for reconsideration, directing the district court to make specific findings, by clear and convincing evidence, on whether the home was a gift to the marriage or wife’s separate property, and further findings consistent therewith, if necessary.

Husband’s sole contention on cross-appeal was that the district court erred when it awarded wife maintenance in an amount that exceeded the statutory “cap” under C.R.S. § 14-10-114(3)(b)(I). Husband asserted that the plain language of the statute prohibited the court from entering a maintenance award that exceeded 40% of the parties’ combined monthly adjusted gross income. By describing the guideline formula as advisory and not presumptive, and by requiring the district court to consider other financial factors before awarding maintenance, the General Assembly indicated that it did not intend to “cap” the amount of maintenance available to a spouse. Therefore, under the new maintenance statute, the district court must consider the guideline formula and make findings concerning the relevant factors cited in the statute. After it has done so, the court, in its discretion, may award maintenance that exceeds the guideline formula amount if appropriate under the circumstances.

The judgement was affirmed in part and vacated in part, and the case was remanded.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind

*