Parents getting divorced who already have preexisting child support obligations may wonder how they’ll meet all of their financial responsibilities, including new alimony payments. Understandably, being in this situation can be incredibly worrisome. After all, you have only so much money to go around. The good news is Colorado law makes allowances for these kinds of circumstances. In this article, we discuss how preexisting child support affects new alimony payments.
Determining Alimony in Colorado
It’s left to the court’s discretion whether to award a spouse alimony. When alimony – or spousal maintenance – is ordered, most judges apply Colorado’s statutory guidelines to help them set a fair amount. Each spouse’s income and their ability to make money are major factors in allocating alimony. In some cases, courts must consider other support orders, like child support, already in place before setting an alimony amount.
Preexisting Child Support Affects New Alimony
It’s probably a relief to know that new awards for spousal maintenance do not supersede preexisting child support orders. The court cannot take money away from your child (from a previous relationship) so you fulfill new spousal maintenance payments. The court cannot expect you to meet new obligations without considering existing ones. Plus, you must be able to meet your own needs, too.
“A court cannot make an [alimony] award which will impoverish the [payor].”
Colorado Supreme Court in Santilli v. Santilli, 169 Colo. 49 (1969)
That’s why the court must weigh all factors, like preexisting child support payments, when a spouse requests alimony.
Your Income is Adjusted for Preexisting Child Support
If you have preexisting child support payments that you are actively paying, the court will factor them into your income.
“’Adjusted gross income’ means gross income as defined in subsection (8)(c) of this section, less preexisting court-ordered child support obligations actually paid by a party” C.R.S. 14-10-114 (8)(a)(I)
Adjusting income for preexisting child support payments is straightforward: the payment amount is subtracted from your gross income.
You will, however, need to provide proof that you are current on the child support payments. Also, the amount of preexisting child support payments cannot exceed the state’s schedule for basic support obligations. In other words, the court does include extra money you may provide that goes above and beyond what is actually ordered.
Children You Can Include
Preexisting child support orders for biological and adopted children (not of this marriage) are eligible. Support payments for stepchildren can only be included if a court has deemed you legally responsible for them.
Other Income Adjustments for Children
Preexisting child support is only one way to have your income adjusted before alimony is calculated. Colorado law grants income modifications for caring for your child even when there is not a formal child support order.
“… and the adjustment to a party’s income as determined pursuant to section 14-10-115 (6)(b) for any children who are not children of the marriage for whom the party has a legal responsibility to support.” C.R.S. 14-10-114 (8)(a)(I)
Your gross income can be adjusted if:
- your child lives with you
- your child lives outside your home but you provide financial support
Income Adjustment if the Child Lives with You
So, how does the court adjust your income for your other children for whom there is no preexisting child support order? It uses a calculation in the state’s Child Support Guidelines.
The formula, found in C.R.S. 14-10-115 (6)(b), applies your gross income to the basic child support schedule to find how much child support your son or daughter would be entitled to under the law. Once that support figure is determined, it is reduced by 25 percent. The last step is to subtract the adjusted support figure from your gross income.
Here’s an example using Colorado’s basic child support schedule:
Let’s say you have one child (not from your current marriage) who lives with you all the time, and you make $70,200 a year. Your monthly gross income is $5850.
Based on your monthly gross income, the child support schedule calls for your child to receive $908 a month in support. That amount is reduced by 25 percent to $681.
$681/month x 12/months = $8,172/annual support allowance
$70,200/gross income – $8,172/annual support allowance = $62,028/adjusted gross income
Provided there are no other adjustments to your income, the court will use your adjusted gross income of $62,028 when it determines how much alimony you will have to pay.
Income Adjustment if the Child Does Not Live with You
In the event that your child does not live with you and there is no court-ordered child support, the amount of documented financial support you provide will be deducted from your gross income.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
As you can see, calculating an alimony award is not always a simple process, especially if you have other court-ordered support obligations. If you expect to be ordered to pay spousal maintenance and wonder how preexisting child support affects new alimony, set up some time to meet with a member of our Family Law Team. Call 303-688-0944 or click here to schedule your appointment online.