My wife of almost 20 years decided while I was on a three-day trip to just get up and leave. She left the three kids behind and moved in with her friend. This happened 3 months ago. Two of our sons, ages 13 and 16, are bipolar and demand a lot of time. The third is 18 and in college. My wife has been paying support for two of the kids, but not the one in college. I am unable to work anymore than a part-time job because of my disability. So I want more support from her or alimony, but she refuses and says she’s already helping enough by paying for our two bipolar sons.
Will I be allowed to receive alimony or increased support from her? We have mediation coming up and I can’t afford a lawyer. What is there for a single dad to do?
I know this is not what you want to hear, but you need to contact a domestic litigation attorney immediately. Every state has different laws governing the determination of support. Although you are proceeding pro se, the Courts will hold you to the same standards as if you had an attorney. There are typically specific pleadings that are required when a spouse is asking for support. Failure to follow the set procedures could result in you losing the chance to ever argue for support before the Court. This is why it is important to retain an attorney prior to filing for divorce or answering a divorce petition. There may be legal service resources in your community for persons with disabilities or who are below the poverty guidelines. Although I do not practice in your jurisdiction, Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Colorado. Depending on the laws of your jurisdiction and the disparity in your respective incomes, your wife may also be responsible for paying your attorneys fees.
With that said, you need to talk to someone about the laws of Colorado relating to child support and alimony. Although most states would not require her to pay any support for your eldest child, most have a formula which the Court uses for determining the amount of child support a parent must pay. These formulas are typically based on the placement schedule and the earnings of the parties. You should consult with a domestic litigation attorney regarding the Colorado child support guidelines. In addition to child support statutes, most states have statutes which guide the Court’s determination of whether to award alimony (maintenance) to a party. The decision to award alimony is often based on a variety of factors. For example, in Wisconsin, the Court considers the following when determining maintenance (our version of alimony): the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the division of property, the education level of each party at the time of the marriage and at the time the action is commenced, the earning capacity of the parties, the feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage and the time needed to achieve this goal, the tax consequences to the parties, pre-marital and post-marital agreements, the contribution of one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other and any other facts as the court may determine to be relevant. Once the Court determines that a party is entitled to alimony, the Court then determines how much the person should receive per month and how long he or she should receive it. Many parties decide to opt for a alimony buyout which is a lump sum payment that the party receives which is often somewhere near the equivalent of the present day value of the payments over time. The decision to waive or deny alimony is often a permanent decision that an attorney cannot go in and fix later. Therefore, you should contact an attorney immediately.
You state that you are presently receiving child support. Was this based on an agreement you and your wife came to or was this the amount the Court ordered her to pay during the pendency of the divorce action? While a divorce action is pending, a party can petition the Court for temporary orders which the parties have to abide by until the final divorce hearing. Given the placement schedule and the fact that you are disabled, the Court could make orders requiring her to pay child support, alimony (maintenance), and/or various household expenses. If you do not have temporary orders, this is something you will want to address with your attorney right away.
Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.