THE REPRESENTATION YOU NEED IN ORDER TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY
If you and your spouse share a child during a divorce, one of you may end up owing the other child support, depending on the custody and support arrangement. If you believe you will have to pay your ex-spouse child support after a divorce, it can help to understand how the courts in Colorado calculate child support amounts. Start by understanding what the courts consider income.
How Do the Courts Calculate Child Support in Colorado?
Child support is a legal decree ordering one parent to pay a certain amount to financially support a child after a divorce. In Colorado, the law holds that both parents should share financial responsibility for a child after a divorce. A judge may use a child support order to make each parent’s contribution to childcare equal – thus allowing the child of a divorce to maintain the standard of living he or she enjoyed during the marriage.
When determining a child support amount in a divorce case, a judge will analyze factors such as:
- Both parents’ gross incomes
- The financial resources of either parent
- The custody arrangement
- How much time each parent spends with the child
- The needs of the child (medical care, education, etc.)
- The financial resources of the child
- The child’s standard of living before the divorce
It is possible to avoid having a judge determine your child support amount if you and your ex-spouse can agree to an amount on your own. If you and your ex-spouse can agree to a parenting plan, including custody, visitation and child support orders, a judge will most likely sign off on the settlement agreement if it is in the best interests of the child. Otherwise, your case will go to court in Colorado for a judge to decide.
What Is Considered Income?
It is important to understand exactly what the law considers income when determining a child support award. Under Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-115, a parent’s adjusted gross income refers to his or her gross income minus pre-existing child support and alimony obligations. Income can refer to more than just the wages you earn at your place of employment, however. Income can refer to:
- Tips and commissions
- Nonmonetary employment perks
- Severance pay
- Pension plan
- 401(k) account
- Trust or estate income
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Unemployment benefits
- Veteran’s benefits
- Social Security benefits
- Gifts and prizes won
- Education grants
- Alimony from another ex-spouse
Income refers to your actual gross income if fully employed or your potential income if you are underemployed. If you try to intentionally avoid employment to diminish what you will owe your ex-spouse in child support, the courts in Colorado will impute income to you. It will estimate your child support payment obligation based on what you reasonably could be earning according to your work history, education and other factors. You must then meet your assigned child support obligation, even if it means getting a higher-paying job.
How to Report Your Income During a Divorce Case
You must list all sources of income on the financial disclosure form you submit to the courts at the beginning of your divorce case. You are obligated by law to fully disclose everything that constitutes a source of income under penalty of perjury. This means if you knowingly hide any source of income, no matter how small, you could face criminal charges and serious consequences.
If you are not sure whether the courts classify a certain type of earning as income, consult with a divorce attorney. A Fort Collins divorce lawyer can carefully review your case to help you identify what the courts consider income. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a child support agreement with your ex-spouse, decreasing your chances of going to court, or represent you at trial. Hiring a divorce lawyer to represent you can protect you from making critical errors, such as failing to disclose something the courts consider income.
Posted in Child Support on August 25, 2020
Child support is a court order requiring one spouse to pay the other for a child’s basic expenses after a divorce. Most divorces involving children end with one parent having to fulfill a child support order until the child turns 19 (or older with some exceptions). Child support payments are meant to cover certain expenses associated with raising a child.
Determining the Amount of Child Support Expenses
The amount you or your spouse will have to pay in child support depends on your specific situation. The courts will never force a parent to pay more than he or she can reasonably afford per month. The ultimate determining factor is what is in the child’s best interests. Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-115(b) gives basic guidelines for determining child support amounts. The courts will take both parents’ combined adjusted gross incomes, make adjustments per individual child based on special needs or childcare costs, and allocate an amount of child support by both parents based on custody.
Factors used to calculate a child support amount include each parent’s financial resources, the child’s financial resources, the child’s previous standard of living, the child’s educational needs and physical/emotional condition, and the financial needs of the noncustodial parent. The state statute ensures every child of divorce receives enough financial support from both parents. The goal is to give a child the same financial support he or she enjoyed before the divorce. In general, the parent who does not have primary custody of the child will owe child support.
What Types of Expenses Are Covered by Child Support?
One parent’s child support payments are meant to financially support a child who is in the other parent’s primary care. The custodial parent should use the money to pay for ordinary expenses related to childcare, such as food, shelter, clothing, education, travel and medical care. Child support could also pay for extraordinary expenses specific to the child.
Basic Child Support Expenses
The basic categories for which child support pays are food, clothing and housing. More specifically, these expenses can include the primary caregiver’s utility bills, rent, monthly grocery expenses, education, school supplies and lunches, daycare, medical and dental bills, allowances, transportation, clothes, and shoes.
Child support can also cover extraordinary expenses for a child if the parents list these expenses in the child support worksheet or agreement. These are things beyond the basic needs of a child, such as extracurricular activities, sports, special education, private schools, school trips, additional clothing, private tutoring and other expenses. You and your spouse should expressly agree on the extraordinary expenses that are reasonable for each child.
What Medical Costs Does Child Support Cover?
Child support should cover a child’s current and future medical needs including health insurance. This is a basic child support obligation. Medical care can include travel expenses, doctor’s appointments, specialists, therapies, surgeries, medications, medical devices, rehabilitation and emergency care. Examples include eyeglasses, braces, casts, and copays and deductibles. Child support could also help a parent pay for health insurance and medical expenses for the child.
What Happens If My Income Changes and I Cannot Follow My Child Support Order?
Child support order modifications are available for parents with a significant change in circumstance, such as income changes. To qualify for a modification, you must officially petition the courts for a reduction. Do not work out an arrangement privately with your ex-spouse, as this will not legally change your financial obligation. Your spouse could, at any time, force you to pay the missing amount from previous months. Instead, petition the courts with evidence demonstrating your change in circumstances, such as the loss of a job. The courts will review your child support order and may modify it accordingly.
Consult a Colorado Child Support Attorney
Child support is a complex part of a divorce case involving children in Colorado. For assistance working out a child support plan, obtaining a child support order, forcing your spouse to pay or modifying a child support agreement, contact a Colorado child support attorney. A lawyer can provide tailored legal advice and representation during a divorce case that could help you achieve your desired goals.
The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching implications. It has affected most aspects of life…including marriage and divorce. Couples quarantining together have given rise to speculation of divorce rates increasing, while couples in the middle of divorces are wondering how the virus will affect their cases. Take a look at how the coronavirus has affected divorce for an idea of what to expect.
Is COVID-19 Leading to Higher Divorce Rates?
Several news reports from around the world have confirmed what many divorce lawyers have suspected: lockdowns, self-isolation and quarantine have strained marriages past the point of reconciliation for thousands of couples. One article from the New York Post quotes lawyers from NYC confirming an uptick in the number of divorce cases related to COVID-19, while another from Business Insider reports a spike in divorce cases filed in Xi’an, China upon the lift of its mandatory lockdown.
Divorce lawyers and relationship experts speculate that the rise in divorce petitions has a few different reasons. Couples that might normally have spent more time apart are now stuck with each other for weeks, leading to an increase in stress, frustration and fights. Co-parenting while the family is quarantined may also present new challenges or issues that parents may be unable to overcome. Some couples were already on the brink of divorce, only to have issues related to the coronavirus finally push them past the breaking point. Financial problems connected to job losses are also adding to marital stress and an increase in divorce rates.
How Has the Coronavirus Changed the Divorce Process?
On top of increasing the number of divorces, the coronavirus has also altered the legal process. Most courtrooms in Colorado have temporarily closed or significantly reduced the number of cases accepted, leading to longer wait times than usual for a couple to have a judge hear a divorce case. If your divorce requires a trial, you will most likely have to wait until your county lifts its social distancing requirements and the courts are back in regular session to complete your divorce case.
If you can work out a divorce settlement agreement with your spouse, however, it might be possible to get a divorce without going to court. Some courts have implemented technologies to allow couples to file documents electronically and attend court sessions via videoconferencing. Most divorce lawyers in Colorado are also offering telephone consultations, online document collection and e-signatures on legal documents to help initiate and/or complete divorce proceedings virtually. Many judges are ruling on petitions remotely to finalize them. Ask an attorney if it will be possible to file for divorce or continue a case you filed before COVID-19.
Can I Start Divorce Mediation Now?
The pandemic might have a significant impact on your divorce timeline depending on the circumstances. Many couples trying to divorce during the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving notices from their lawyers explaining that they will have to wait until the country lifts its social distancing regulations to file or continue a case. Others, however, are having good luck with telecommunications and virtual proceedings. Each case and county are unique. Call a lawyer in your county to find out if you and your spouse can start divorce mediation now.
How Will This Affect My Children?
The coronavirus might impact child custody by making it impossible or unsafe for co-parents to take turns with the kids according to their custody agreements. It might be necessary for you and your spouse to work out a temporary custody modification to accommodate social distancing or quarantine requirements. Make sure you do this with help from a lawyer rather than making a verbal agreement. The same is true if you need to modify a child support agreement. If you lost your job because of COVID-19 and can no longer pay child support, contact a lawyer to submit an official modification request. Working closely with a lawyer during this unprecedented and uncertain time can help you get trusted answers to your questions.
Posted in Child Support on March 11, 2020
Child support is a financial responsibility one parent may owe the other after divorce. One parent – typically the noncustodial one – may owe the other parent child support to keep the child’s quality of life the same after a divorce. Each state has unique child support laws and regulations. In Colorado, the courts will analyze each parent’s financial situation and the needs of the child to set an appropriate child support amount. If you and a new partner have another child, you may need to officially modify your child support agreement. The amount of the support order may decrease.
Recalculating Child Support After the Birth of Another Child
The courts in Colorado determine child support orders based on numerous factors. A judge will look at measures such as each parent’s income and the child’s needs to decide a fair amount to order one parent to pay. Parents may create their own support agreements before a judge will intervene, but if the agreement does not align with the state’s laws, the courts might not sign off. Most child support payments last until the child turns 19 or 21 if the child is still in high school. If the child has a disability and will never be fully independent, child support can last indefinitely.
The number of children between the spouses may also play a role in determining child custody. In general, more children to care for means a higher amount owed to the custodial parent. Although remarriage will not impact a child support order, a new child could. If you remarry or find a new partner and you two have a child, the addition of this child could decrease your child support responsibility to your ex-spouse. Since you will now be financially responsible for another child, the courts may see this as a qualifying reason to reduce the payment owed to your ex-spouse.
After remarriage, your new spouse will not be financially responsible for the children from your last marriage (with some exceptions). You will still have to keep up with your child support obligation even after you remarry. If you two have a child together, however, this could impact how much you have to pay your ex-spouse for the care of your other children. Now that you have a new child to provide for, the courts will take your new financial situation into consideration during a child support modification request.
How to Modify Your Child Support Order in Colorado
If you and your new spouse are expecting a child, discuss the related laws in Colorado with a child support attorney to see how it might affect what you are currently paying in child support. In most cases, a new child will qualify you for a modification of your support order. You may petition the courts in Colorado for a support modification after any changes in your financial status. This includes losing your job, changing careers, getting a demotion or promotion, or having another child.
Always go through the official legal process for modifying your support order. Do not modify your order through a verbal agreement with your ex-spouse. You will continue owing him or her the same amount on paper through your legally binding support order. In the future, should your ex-spouse choose to hold you responsible for the unpaid amount, he or she lawfully could – along with significant fines and penalties for late payments. Instead, request a support order modification through the courts in Colorado.
Fill out and submit the correct paperwork for modifying your order, along with the $105 filing fee. If you cannot afford this fee, submit a Motion to File Without Payment and Supporting Financial Affidavit. Indicate your reason for the modification request: the birth of another child with a new spouse. Note that under Colorado family law, the change in your financial situation must decrease the dollar amount owed by at least 10%. If your change in circumstance qualifies, a lawyer can help you fill out and file the appropriate paperwork to make the modification official.
Posted in Child Support on February 5, 2020
Challenges related to child custody and support are often some of the hardest to overcome during divorce cases in Colorado. Negotiating child support during a divorce takes a combination of understanding state laws and knowing what you can do to help. A divorce lawyer can walk you through how Colorado handles child support orders to better understand what to expect. If you need assistance in Colorado, ask our child support attorney in Fort Collins for help.
What Is the Purpose of Child Support?
Child support is for the child, not for the receiving spouse. In general, child support covers a child’s basic needs, including education, clothing, food and housing. However, it may also help a child enjoy a richer childhood by paying for extracurricular activities such as sports, camps or music lessons. The courts may award child support to one spouse if he or she has primary custody of the kids and not enough income to continue the same level of care. If the noncustodial spouse is the main breadwinner, for instance, he or she may owe the custodial spouse money in child support after the divorce.
You Get the First Say
The courts in Colorado will first allow you and your spouse to work out a child support agreement before intervening. If you and your child’s father or mother can work together to come up with a custody and support agreement you both accept, a judge will most likely sign off on whatever you decide, unless the judge does not believe your agreement follows the state’s guidelines or is in the best interest of the child.
If you have trouble communicating or negotiating with your ex-spouse, the best way to come to an agreement is through mediation. Mediation is a chance for you both to list your grievances and hear the counsel of an unbiased third party. The judge during mediation can help you come up with a child support amount and payment strategy that works for both of you to help you avoid going to trial. Here is a helpful checklist of things to bring to mediation. If your spouse refuses to offer child support or work with you, however, you may need to go to court.
The Courts Determine a Support Award
A child support matter will proceed to court in Colorado if you and your spouse fail to create an agreement during pre-trial negotiations. During a divorce trial, a judge will assess your family’s dynamic, both spouses’ incomes and many other factors to determine child custody and support. The main factor a judge will look at, however, is the child’s best interest. The goal of child support will be to maintain the child’s same standard of living after the divorce.
Colorado’s child support statutes aim to ensure all children of divorced couples continue to receive adequate financial and emotional support from both parents. The courts will determine how much the noncustodial parent must pay the other parent in child support based on a complex state equation plus factors such as each parent’s financial resources, the child’s standard of living before the divorce and the child’s needs. A child support order may include money for medical care, disability, education and health insurance.
Colorado’s child support equation combines both parents’ gross incomes, as well as any money from retirement plans and public assistance, and takes a percentage to use as child support. Colorado typically deducts 20% of both parents’ combined gross incomes for one child and an additional 10% for each subsequent child, then splits the amount between both parties according to numerous factors.
If both parents make $100,000 together, for instance, and have four kids, the courts would split $40,000 (40%) between the two parents to support the children. In general, the noncustodial parent will have to pay the custodial parent his or her portion.
Hiring a divorce lawyer and separating from spouse can come with many difficulties and concerns. In the eyes of the law, however, just four elements compromise the heart of your case. Whether you and your spouse are trying to work together for an uncontested divorce or you are already preparing for a trial, it is important to understand the four main matters at hand. Discussing these issues with your spouse could help you both agree on the terms of the split.
When you and your spouse divorce, the legal status of your properties change. What you used to jointly own may now be you or your spouse’s property. Each state has unique property division laws for divorce cases. Colorado is an equitable distribution state, rather than using the doctrine of community property. If the courts determine property division, they will do so in a way that is fair to both parties. Fair may not mean equal.
You and your spouse will first get the opportunity to decide how to divide property on your own. A judge will most likely sign off on a plan you both agree upon. If you cannot agree with your spouse, the matter may go to mediation or trial. If the issue goes before a judge, he or she will consider factors such as each spouse’s finances, child custody and property values while dividing assets and debts.
Colorado’s phrase for child custody is parental responsibilities. Two types of parental responsibilities exist: physical and legal. Physical responsibilities refer to custody and/or visitation rights, while legal responsibilities give a parent the right to make important life decisions on the child’s behalf. As with property division, the Colorado courts will first allow you and your spouse the opportunity to work out a parenting plan before interfering. A parenting plan should include a detailed schedule of parenting time and rules for decision-making.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of a parenting plan, the matter may go to trial. A custody battle could involve you and your spouse explaining to a judge why you are each the better fit for the allocation of parental responsibilities. A judge may also consider the opinion of the child if he or she is mature enough to have one. Then, the judge will rule according to the child’s best interest. A judge may look at issues such as each parent’s relationship with the child and which parent can provide the most stable living environment to allocate parental responsibilities.
Child support is separate from parental responsibilities. It refers to one parent’s financial responsibilities to children, often based on the custody arrangement. In most divorce cases involving child support, the courts will grant a support request in favor of the custodial spouse. The noncustodial parent will have to pay a certain amount to the custodial parent to fulfill his or her financial responsibilities to the child. The courts use child support as a way to maintain the child’s standard of living after a divorce, under the belief that a child should not have to suffer due to the actions of the parents. For more information, call an experienced Fort Collins child support lawyer today.
Spousal maintenance, or alimony, is a payment one spouse may have to make to the other, usually temporarily, to maintain the recipient’s standard of living. The Colorado courts may grant a request for spousal maintenance if an income disparity exists between the spouses. If one spouse gave up an education and career to raise a child, for example, the other spouse may have to pay spousal maintenance after a divorce. The courts may issue spousal maintenance temporarily during the divorce, and then order a more permanent setup post-divorce. Spousal maintenance usually persists until the recipient changes financial status or remarries.
Posted in Child Support on May 22, 2019
Once the court issues a child support order as part of a divorce case, its terms are inflexible. The spouse that must make child support payments cannot choose to skip a month or change the support amount without court approval. The only way to modify a child support order in Colorado is to undergo a specific legal process and receive official approval from a judge. A judge will only give this approval if the petitioning spouse has a valid reason for the modification.
When Might Modification Be Necessary?
A parent might need to modify a child support order if his or her circumstances have changed. If a parent loses a job, for example, and can no longer meet the child support order requirement, that parent may need to request a modification to the order. In Colorado, the courts will only consider modification requests if a parent has experienced a substantial and continuing change in circumstances since the date the court issued the initial order.
- Change in income
- New job
- Job termination
- Substantial promotion or demotion
- A change in the child’s circumstances
- New medical or dental needs for the child
- Special education needs
- A change in the number of annual overnight stays
- A child becoming emancipated
These are common situations in which the courts may accept a request for child support modification. The change in circumstances, however, cannot be something the parent fabricates to avoid paying child support. The courts will often request documentation to prove the change in circumstance. The courts will not accept a modification request if the parent has created the situation him/herself, such as by buying an expensive car or boat.
How to Ask the Courts for Child Support Modification
If you lose your job or something else happens that makes it necessary to change how much you pay in child support, start gathering documentation that will help prove that your current circumstances are substantially different than when you first got divorced. If you are the spouse that receives child support, you also have the power to request modification. This may be necessary if your spouse has gotten a new job or you are responsible for more overnight stays, but your spouse has not voluntarily offered to pay more money.
You must submit your child support order modification request in writing to the Child Support Enforcement Unit in your county. You must sign the request. Your request must also include a Sworn Financial Statement (or Income and Expense Affidavit) that gives details about your debts, assets, and income. Give your reason for requesting the change, as well as the new amount you are requesting. You must base the new amount on calculations using an official calculator. Include a Child Support Worksheet that breaks down your calculations.
Once you have provided the courts with all the information and documentation they need, you may have to appear in court for a hearing. Whether or not this will happen depends on the judge presiding over your case. The judge will have 49 days after you file your request to either schedule a hearing or make a decision without a hearing. If a hearing is necessary, you will need to explain to the judge why you believe the modification is necessary. You can hire an attorney to help you with this process.
Imputed income is a court-ordered income amount that may apply to child support cases in which one parent tries to escape financial responsibility by lying about his or her income level. The divorce courts in Fort Collins take child support orders very seriously. They will handle a parent that tries to act outside the system by imposing an imputed income amount on the child support decree. If you have specific questions about your assets or computing income, speak to a Fort Collins divorce lawyer today.
About Colorado Child Support Orders
The courts in Colorado may issue a child support order in a divorce case involving children. The purpose of a child support arrangement is to maintain the child’s quality of living after a divorce. The courts believe a child should not have to suffer a decrease in funds, food, clothing, etc. because of a divorce of the parents. To keep the child’s financial situation the same post-divorce, the courts may order a child support requirement to one spouse – typically, the non-custodial parent.
A parent with a child support order will have to pay the amount stated in the order until the month that a child out of high school turns 18, or until the month a full-time high school student turns 19. Parents have the option of working together to determine how much child support one spouse should pay. If they cannot agree on an amount, however, the courts will set child support payments. A judge will calculate the amount of child support based on the Income Shares Model, which looks at the gross incomes of both parents.
When Might the Courts Impute Income?
During a child support case in Colorado, it is up to both parents to accurately report their income to the courts. The courts will then use these incomes, plus information about what the family usually spends on the child, to assign the noncustodial parent’s share of support. A parent may try to cheat the child support system by reporting a lower income level than he or she actually earns. The parent might think that this will punish the parent by paying less. Since child support payments are for the child, however, and not the spouse, the courts will not allow a parent to get away with reporting an incorrect income.
If the courts discover that a parent is trying to shirk his or her child support responsibility by lying about income, they will assign an involuntary income amount to that parent. This is called imputed income. Imputed income may also be a necessity if a parent is intentionally avoiding work opportunities to remain unemployed or underemployed. To calculate imputed income, a judge will analyze the parent’s earning potential based on education, work experience, location, and other factors. Then, the judge will issue a child support order based off the imputed income, regardless of the parent’s actual income.
For example, if a parent was earning $100,000 a year, but then the year of the divorce switches to a job earning $50,000, a judge may assign an imputed income at the $100,000 salary level. The parent would then have to pay the amount based on $100,000, even if he or she has a job that pays $50,000. Each case is unique. A judge will assess the specific situation to make sure the parent in question actually has the ability to make more but is intentionally making less, or that the parent is covering up his or her actual income. Then, the judge will assign an imputed income amount he or she deems appropriate.
Posted in Child Support on February 2, 2019
The Colorado family courts calculate child support based on both parents’ incomes, the child custody agreement, costs of childcare, and many other factors. Once the courts issue a support agreement, the paying parent must keep up with support payments to the recipient, or else face consequences, such as contempt of court. The only situation in which a parent may stop or alter a child support arrangement is with an official modification request. This may be necessary if the paying parent loses his or her job.
Obtaining a Modification from the Colorado Courts
A child support order during a divorce case is for the good of the child. The courts will issue child support orders to prevent children from suffering any unfair changes to quality of life because of their parents’ divorces. The courts will not change or end a support order easily. They must have proof that the parent cannot afford to make the payment, through official legal processes. It is not enough to report to the Child Support Division that you have lost your job. Instead, you must file a motion and receive an order of modification from a judge.
If you lose your job, receive a demotion, or otherwise experience drastic change in income while you have a child support order, the courts may modify your agreement. The courts may accept a motion to lower child support payment amounts, or to cancel the agreement completely. However, to receive this modification, you must be able to prove you are legitimately unable to make the payment. Loss of a job may be a legitimate reason to request a support order modification in some circumstances.
Involuntary vs. Voluntary Loss of Job
The courts draw an important distinction between voluntary and involuntary loss of job. If a parent voluntarily quits his or her job in an effort to avoid paying child support, the courts will not let that parent get away with not paying. Instead, the courts will use imputed income to calculate child support payments. Imputed income is the amount the parent could reasonably earn if he or she had a full-time job. The courts may also use imputed income to calculate child support if a parent has the ability to work, but chooses not to, to avoid paying child support.
Involuntary loss of a job due to an injury, disability, company layoffs, or termination, however, could result in a successful modification request. You will need evidence of the involuntary loss of job to prove your case, as well as proof that you engaged in diligent efforts to find another job, to no avail. Copies of job applications and records of interviews may suffice as evidence of loss of income. If a judge reviews your case and decides your situation warrants a child support order modification, you may receive a temporary or permanent change.
What to Do After Losing Your Job
If you lost your job and cannot afford to make your child support payments, file an official motion for modification. Do not work things out with only your spouse. An off-record agreement could come back to work against you, and you may end up owing your spouse missed payments plus interest and penalties. Do not ignore the problem and assume it is okay to miss a few payments in-between jobs. The courts may find you in contempt and may even arrest you for being in arrears of your payments.
Instead, file for a modification of child support at your local Colorado family court. While your paperwork goes through and a judge reviews your case, do not stop searching for another job. Continue seeking employment so the courts know you are putting forth a reasonable effort. Take your financial obligation seriously and hire a child support attorney in Fort Collins if you need help with your modification request.
FAQ’s & Resources
Posted in Child Support on October 3, 2018
When relationships don’t work out, the fallout can affect many things. In some relationships, that may mean that the couple’s children go through a change in environment, especially whenever parents are divorcing. However, both parents have an obligation to care for their children, even when the parents’ relationship changes.
To help ensure that children have suitable financial support after a divorce or breakup, Colorado law requires child support payments. These payments intend to provide children with the same standard of living they would have had if their parents had stayed together. To do this, Colorado’s child support guidelines follow a complicated set of equations to determine the appropriate amount of support for the family’s circumstances. Our
- What expenses are included in child support?
- What determines who pays child support?
- How does Income work in determining child support?
- How Is child support calculated?
- Can you deviate from child support guidelines?
- How long is child support paid in Colorado?
- Can a child support agreement be changed?
What Types of Expenses Are Part of Child Support?
A child support order will include expenses for:
- Health insurance coverage
- Medical care
Travel expenses only apply when they are for transport associated with visitation, not for general travel.
What Factors Determine Child Support?
Several circumstances impact child support payments, all working to ensure that the parent responsible for the children can take care of them. One major factor in this is custody, determined by a separate agreement. In most cases, the parent with primary custody of the children will receive child support, though this can vary for parents who share custody.
Both parents’ income is also essential in determining custody. Cases where parents have grossly disparate incomes can lead to larger support payments when combined with other factors. The number of children and the amount of time they spend with each parent will also play a role. Other factors include:
- The financial resources and needs of both the custodial and non-custodial parent
- Physical and emotional condition of the children
- The children’s educational needs
The goal is to prevent major disruptions in a child’s well-being through the removal of financial resources. For young children especially, a divorce can be an emotionally impactful time. Preventing additional shocks from sudden changes in the standard of living can help to lessen the overall changes.
How Does Income Work in Determining Child Support?
The income of both parents plays one of the largest parts in establishing and fulfilling child support agreements. Many different sources of money can serve as your income for the sake of determining child support, such as your salary, independent contractor payments, bonuses and benefits, overtime pay, alimony, and workers’ compensation, to name some.
While lottery winnings do not count as part of your income, other monetary prizes can. Other types of monetary gain excluded from your child support case include child support received for children from other relationships or public assistance.
Aside from including all sources of monetary gain, Colorado uses adjusted gross income in calculating child support payments. However, this adjusted gross income is not the same as you would use for tax purposes.
Parents who are already paying some form of alimony or child support for another relationship can take those amounts out of their adjusted gross income. It’s also possible to deduct support amounts for children from other relationships who are living in the same household. This amount varies based on basic support obligations and the number of children.
Both parents can also deduct certain recurring expenses, such as work-related childcare, adding children to health insurance policies, additional health care expenses, as well as costs related to education and transportation for visitation purposes.
Non-custodial parents who earn between $900 and $1,900 gross monthly income can potentially qualify for a low-income adjustment to child support payments. However, parents who are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed may have the court determine an imputed income based on evidence of earning capacity, rather than their actual income. The imputed income is an amount attributed to the parent who has shown the capacity to earn that amount even though they do not earn it now. Parents who are usually exempt from this process include parents who:
- Are caring for children under the age of 30 months
- Have mental or physical limitations
- Will be incarcerated for more than a year
- Are making a good faith career change to increase income
Once the court has determined the appropriate levels of gross income for the parents, remaining child support calculations will use that amount.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
Along with adjusted income, the child support calculation factors all the applicable variables into consideration. The calculation takes the combined gross income of the parents and draws a percentage to serve as the child support amount. For one child, the percentage is roughly 20%, with an additional 10% added per additional child. For example, two children would have a base child support amount of 30%, three children for 40%, and so on.
After that base amount is established, the courts split support between both parents. The other determining factors of custodial time, income, etc. determine which parent is responsible for how much child support. The main custodial parent will pay his or her portion in normal expenses, while the non-custodial parent will pay the remaining amount in child support payments.
When trying to calculate child support payments on your own, you must still follow Colorado guidelines. The state also provides worksheets to help determine amounts. You can use the manual worksheets or use the electronic worksheet to automatically calculate your amount after entering all the relevant information.
Depending on the custody arrangement for your children, you may need to fill out a different worksheet:
- Form JDF 1820M works for most cases where children spend no more than 92 overnights with the parent with less physical custody.
- Form JDF 1821M works for cases of shared custody where children spend at least 93 overnights with each parent.
When parents have different levels of custody for separate children, it will also impact the amount of child support payments. If you are trying to determine your own child custody payments, you may need to fill out different worksheets to account for the different children payments, and then compare the support amounts for the different situations.
Is It Possible to Deviate from the State Child Support Guidelines?
In some cases, parents may decide to set up their own form of child support agreement. When both parties agree on this child support amount, the court may approve it. However, if the agreed amount of support deviates too far from state guidelines, the court may order a new child support amount more in line with the guidelines.
Additionally, a court may choose to deviate from the state outlined guidelines. This is likely to occur whenever the strict application of the guidelines would be unfair to a child or one of the parents. Some circumstances could involve an underpayment for support or too much financial strain on the non-custodial parent in a way that would severely impact their quality of life.
However, these situations are the minority. Most cases of child support will follow the state’s guidelines.
When Do Child Support Payments Stop?
The support-paying parent will continue to pay child support until the child turns 19. If the child still attends high school, the payments will continue until the child turns 21. For children who have mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from supporting themselves, child support will continue indefinitely.
In cases where a parent pays support for multiple children, payments for children who turn 18 or 21 respectively will stop at those points, while payments for younger children will continue until they are of age.
Is It Possible to Modify a Child Support Agreement?
Many higher-income parents worry that the discrepancy between their own income and their partners will result in high child support payments. However, the amount determined by a child support agreement is not permanent. As children and parents’ circumstances change, Colorado law allows for adjustments to child support agreements.
Either parent may request a review of the child support order, so long as it connects to changes in circumstances. Some of the major factors that allow for review are:
- A child under support has become emancipated
- One of the parents has had a change in income
- The cost of raising the child has changed, such as daycare or healthcare expenses
- The number of overnight visits with parents has changed
- Three years have passed since your last reviews
Including supporting information for the reason for the request will help facilitate the process. It can take up to six months to completely review and change child support. The new child support calculations will use the current adjusted gross income and expenses of the parents, rather than the previous amounts. However, an order will not change if the dollar amount has not adjusted 10% or more or there is an adjustment to medical support costs.
Determining Child Support for Your Situation
Calculating the appropriate amount of child support can be a challenge, especially in complex situations that include more variables. Even so, children have a right to fair amounts of child support for their situation. In cases where parents don’t agree to the terms of child support, it may be necessary to enter negotiations, enlist the help of a family law attorney, or dispute the matter in court.
No matter the path or result of your child support order, the most important part is to remember that payments are for the sake of your children’s well-being. As circumstances change, so may child support payments. Having the help of a skilled child support attorney can help ensure that your children have the best quality of life possible, given the changing circumstances.