There are usually four aspects of money in most divorces: (1) assets and debts, (2) retirement, (3) child support, and (4) alimony.
Assets and debts are usually straightforward. Unless there’s a good reason not to, you split both assets and debts 50/50.
Like assets and debts, retirement is almost always a 50/50 split for the period of the marriage.
What makes assets and debts and retirement calculations so clean is they almost never affect each other. What I mean is you don’t get more retirement because you took on more debt. (You can if the other person agrees to that, but you can’t really force it.)
Child Support Almost Always Affects Alimony
Unlike assets and debts and retirement, child support and alimony calculations aren’t so clean.
Because of the way we calculate alimony, it’s almost always affected by the amount of child support you receive.
Quick alimony primer
Let’s begin with a quick explanation about how we calculate alimony.
First, we find the spouse who makes less money per month. We then see what that person makes after taxes are taken out (net income), and what his or her monthly expenses are (necessary monthly expenses).
When we have those numbers, we subtract the necessary monthly expenses from the net income and see if we have a positive number or a negative number. For example, if someone nets $3500 per month, and has $5000 in necessary monthly expenses per month, then the number is -$1500.
If you run in the negative, you have a need for alimony, and that negative number is usually what you request in alimony. So, the person above would ask for $1500 in alimony.
Second, we do the exact same calculation for spouse who makes more money per month.
So, say you make $7000 per month, and your necessary monthly expenses are $5000 per month. Your number is +$2000. This means you have an ability to pay $2000 per month toward alimony.
With that out of the way, let’s see how child support affects things.
How child support affects alimony for the person receiving child support
Child support affects alimony because it’s considered income; and, therefore, it increases the net monthly income of the person who receives it.
So, if we take person #1 from above and give her $700 per month in child support, then her net income would be $4200. Her necessary monthly expenditures would still be $5000, so her new number would be -$800.
She would request $800 per month in alimony — $700 less than before.
How child support affects alimony for the person paying child support
On the other side of the coin, child support paid increases a person’s necessary monthly expenses.
So, if we take person #2 above and make him pay $700 per month in child support, then his monthly expenses will go up from $5000 to $5700. This means his ability to pay alimony goes down to $1300 per month ($7000-$5700=$1300).
What does all this mean in the end?
In the end, child support usually affects alimony in two ways:
- For the person receiving alimony, it decreases the need for alimony (read: you usually receive less alimony as you receive more child support).
- For the person paying alimony, it decreases the ability to pay alimony (read: you usually pay less alimony as you pay more child support).