Depictions of lottery scratch tickets.

Does Winning the Lottery Affect Alimony or Child Support?

The Huffington Post has an article this week entitled Woman Asks Ex Who Won Mega Millions Lottery: Can I Stop Paying Alimony? During the marriage, the wife had been the primary breadwinner, and was ordered to pay 5 years of alimony upon divorce last fall.

Five months later, her ex-husband won $273m in the Mega Millions Lottery, and the wife is now wanting to stop her maintenance payments, which she characterized as “pocket change” to the big winner. (None of the news articles indicated how much maintenance she was paying, but compared to $273m, pretty much any amount would be pocket change).

Since somewhere between 25% and almost half of all marriages end in divorce, chances are there will be divorced men and women among those lucky few who won the lottery. And those big winners may be paying, or receiving, child support or alimony. Another headline several years ago proclaimed $5.3 Million Lottery Winner Hit for More Child Support.

Lottery & Gambling Winnings Count as Income for Alimony or Child Support

Gambling & Lottery at DivorceGambling & Lottery at Divorce

The reason why this is an issue is that in many states, including Colorado, gambling winnings (known as “monetary prizes” in the statute) count as income for purposes of alimony or child support.

And if a person were blessed with the luck (or, in the case of poker, I guess the skill) to win big, and win consistently, those winnings would count as income to determine an appropriate level of child support or maintenance.

But most people won’t win enough playing poker, blackjack or slots at the casino to move the needle on child support. And in most cases, such winnings are not large enough to be publicized, so the ex-spouse or other parent probably will not even know of the win. Practically speaking, despite the law counting gambling winnings as income, most of the time they do not end up affecting child support or alimony.

So while a big lottery winner may have to give up a bit of the prize in increased spousal or child support, most people won’t. Note, however, that a big winner will hit the caps for statutory maintenance or child support, so the spouse seeking an increase will have to justify why it’s appropriate.

More Information

For more information about how gambling and lottery winnings can affect child or spousal support, read the creatively-titled article Lottery, Gambling, Child Support & Alimony in the Colorado Family Law Guide. The article has an in-depth discussion of the actual statutes and cases on this issue.

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