Matters of child custody and child support are among the most contentious and emotionally fraught issues that come to Colorado divorce court. For parents facing divorce in Colorado, knowing what to expect can reduce the level of discord and may help parents arrive at a settlement agreement without the need for an argument in court.
Understanding Child Support in Colorado
Colorado courts believe that every parent has an obligation to support their children. Child support is an amount of money paid from one ex-spouse to the other to cover a child’s basic needs, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education. It also supports extra-curricular activities like sports and camps. This amount serves to avoid a significant disruption to the child’s customary lifestyle.
The state supplies several child support guideline worksheets for parents to calculate the appropriate child support amounts for common child custody schedules. The guidelines use both parents’ gross incomes—including all income sources—as well as the child’s customary standard of living before determining the amount that one parent must pay to the other. The guidelines may increase the portion of income one parent pays the other for child support if the child has special needs for medical care or education.
In typical outcomes, the parent with less child custody time pays the parent with the most overnights during the year.
What If Parents Share Custody 50/50?
Some divorced parents share custody equally, which would be 182.5 overnights each per year. In this case, the higher-earning parent would still have to pay a portion of their income to the other parent in order to maintain the child’s accustomed lifestyle. Only in cases of both parents earning about the same amount of income does this sometimes result in no child support orders issued for either parent.
Can Parents Work Out Their Own Child Support Agreements?
Colorado courts encourage all divorcing spouses to work out their own divorce settlement agreements, including determining child support. This saves time and expense for all involved. Parents may determine their child support payments in a settlement agreement out of court, but a judge will only sign off on the agreement if it’s within the boundaries of the state’s guidelines. However, if you need help to figure out how to plan child support agreements, contact a child support lawyer in Fort Collins to help plan ahead.
What Happens if a Parent Fails to Pay Court-Ordered Child Support?
Colorado Child Services has enforcement authority by various methods including:
Driver’s license suspension
Intercepting tax returns
Negative credit reporting
Bank account seizure
Suspension of recreational licenses like hunting and fishing
Contempt charges in Criminal Court
Contempt charges can result in fines and jail time. This is typically a last resort since fines and jail sentences make it more difficult for parents in arrears on their child support to make payments.
How Long Does Child Support Last?
Child support ends when the youngest child reaches the age of emancipation, which is 19 years old in Colorado. Support may continue past that age if the individual is still in high school at age 19, but doesn’t extend past age 21. In some cases, the courts consider a child under the age of 19 emancipated, including if they get married, join the military, or leave home and become self-supporting.