Mock up of Social Security Card

What Is Income?

Social Security is a hot, complicated mess for family law attorneys. No, I don’t mean to start a political debate as to whether the program will still be around when we retire, or how to save it. Rather, it’s understandable that the largest government benefit program in history will have a bunch of different types of payments, some to parents, some to children, which test the ability of the Colorado maintenance and child support laws to treat Social Security payments in a consistent manner.

The broad definition of income for purposes of maintenance (C.R.S. 14-10-114) and child support (C.R.S. 14-10-115) includes pretty much all payments a person receives, whether taxable or non-taxable. Except when it doesn’t – means-tested payments are excluded from the definition of income, which means Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count.

Social Security As Income

Social Security as income for child supportSocial Security as income for child support

But Social Security, and Social Security Disability (SSD) payments do count – as long as they are payments legally owing to the parent. If the payments are technically owing to the child, they count as income to the child, even if the parent is the one actually receiving and spending the money as the child’s representative payee. And payments to the child are good for the parent in terms of maintenance, since they do not count as income. But they are bad in terms of child support, because both payment to a child have a much larger impact on child support than the same amount of money being treated as income to a parent.

At a divorce, or even at a post-dissolution hearing on child support or maintenance, understanding how to treat SS payments is a necessary evil. So Graham.Law is proud to announce the first expansion of the Colorado Family Law Guide since it was completely overhauled last month – an all-new article with the catchy title Social Security, Alimony & Child Support for everything you ever wanted to know about when to count payments as income, and when not to count them. You’ll probably be sorry you asked!

But Social Security is not Divisible Property at Divorce

Since we’re on the subject, we should point out that Social Security is not an asset that can be divided at divorce, but it is an economic economic circumstance that may be considered when fashioning an equitable division of the marital estate. And family law judges cannot order a spouse to name the other as Social Security payee.

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