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.