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How is Child Support Calculated?

Any divorce between couples with minor children must undergo parental responsibilities planning (what the courts used to call custody agreements) during the divorce or dissolution of marriage process. Parental responsibilities include parental time, decision-making power, and child support payments. Each state has its own rules for calculating child support, or the financial support one spouse must pay the other to support minor children. During a divorce with children in Colorado, the courts use the income shares model to determine child support amounts.

Facts About Child Support in Colorado

In general, the courts make the non-custodial parent pay child support to the custodial parent – even if the parents share joint parental responsibilities. The custodial parent is the parent with the majority of the parental responsibilities, usually the parent with more custody of the child, such as where the child lives most often. The courts determine child support payment amounts based on where the child spends most of his or her time, how much time each parent spends with the child, the parents’ income, the child’s individual needs, and the child’s standard of living prior to the divorce.

Typically, a non-custodial parent will have to make child support payments until the child turns 19. Payments may last past the age of 19 if the child is still in high school, if both parties agree to continue support payments, or if the child is physically or mentally disabled. There are three basic models courts around the country use to calculate child support: the income shares model, percentage of income model, and the Melson Formula. The income shares model is the most popular method.

About the Income Shares Model

Thirty-nine states, including Colorado, use the income shares model for child support payment calculations. The basis of this model is that children should be given the same amount of parental income they would have had if parents had remained together. Prior to divorce, parents typically pool their incomes together and spend for the benefit of all household members. Thus, to calculate child support, the courts take a similar process:

1. Determine both parents’ income and combine them for one total amount.
2. Determine basic child support obligation based on a schedule or statutory table.
3. Determine a presumptive child support obligation by adding in other expenses such as extraordinary medical costs or childcare.
4. Prorate the presumptive child support obligation between both parents based on each parent’s percentage of the combined income.

For example, say the custodial parent makes $1,000 per month and the non-custodial parent makes $2,000 per month. The first step would combine the income for a total of $3,000 per month. The courts would calculate each parent’s percentage of the combined income by dividing the individual income by the total. In this example, the custodial parent’s percentage would be about 33.33% ($1000/$3000) and the non-custodial parent’s percentage would be 66.66% ($2000/$3000).

If the statutory table set the basic support obligation at $500 per month, and then added $50 for childcare expenses, the presumptive child support obligation would increase to $550. The courts would multiply the non-custodial parent’s percentage (66.66%) by the presumptive child support obligation ($550) for the final amount of monthly support obligation. In this example, the non-custodial parent would have to pay $366.63 for child support every month for the period of the agreement.

Get Help with Child Support Payment Calculations

To learn more about how the Colorado courts define “income” and calculate child support payments, read the Colorado Child Support Guideline. Speak to an expert child support attorney to learn more about child support and parental responsibilities in your unique situation, as amounts and processes vary on a case-by-case basis. Try the online child support/maintenance calculator for a general idea of what the courts might make you pay in child support.

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