How Child Support is Determined in Colorado

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedAug 16, 2018
4 minute read

If you are getting divorced and you have children, it’s important to have a child support attorney who can educate you about the law and fight for you and your children. This article covers the basics of Colorado’s child support laws, including how child support is determined.

Find Out How Child Support is Determined

Whether you’ll receive child support or you’ll pay it, it’s important to know how child support is determined based on state law. Our family law attorneys are well versed in Colorado child support laws, and they can provide legal guidance based on the facts of your case. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.

The Basics of Colorado Child Support

What is Child Support?

Child support is the ongoing, regular payments made by one parent to another for the financial well-being of their child or children.

Who Pays Child Support?

If you are the more financially secure partner in a Colorado divorce, you may end up paying child support. You can be liable for child support even if you were not married to the child’s mother. If paternity is proven, the court can order you to help financially support for the child.

Even if the child does not live with you and you have no desire to have a relationship with the child, you can still be liable for child support in Colorado. The law holds that a child’s rights to support outweigh an adult’s wishes for complete financial independence from the family.

What Can Child Support be Used for?

Money given as child support is to be used strictly for the care of the child. It is supposed to be used for things such as:

  • food
  • clothing
  • educational expenses
  • housing
  • extracurricular activities
Child Support and College Tuition

The law does not require the parent who pays child support to pay for college unless the parent has signed a separate agreement establishing such an obligation. Colleges do typically consider both parents’ income in determining eligibility for financial aid.

How Child Support is Determined in Colorado

In Colorado, the courts rely primarily on a software program to determine how much child support a parent can expect to pay. The program requires a couple to provide information like:

  • each of their income
  • how many children they have
  • the number of overnights each parent has with the child
  • how much child care costs
  • who pays for the child’s health insurance and how much

As a general rule, the needs of the child are not issues argued in court.

What Income is Considered for Child Support Payments?

The court considers many forms of funds as income to help you meet your child support obligations, including but not limited to:

  • wages and salaries
  • commissions
  • bonuses
  • dividends
  • severance pay
  • royalties
  • rents
  • interest
  • trust income
  • annuities
  • capital gains
  • pensions
  • workers’ compensation
  • unemployment benefits
  • disability insurance benefits
  • social security benefits

Colorado Revised Statutes § 14-10-115 (5)

If a child support payor is remarried, the new spouse’s earnings are not included in child support arrangements.

When Can I Expect to Receive Child Support?

The parent who pays child support generally begins to make payments from the date of the filing of the divorce case or from the date divorce papers were served.

The goal of child support is to allow the children of the dissolved marriage to continue to be supported in the same way they would have been if the parents had stayed together.

What if I Can’t Afford to Pay Child Support?

Once the court has determined the amount of child support a parent is expected to contribute each month, the child support payor must ensure she or he can afford to meet this obligation.

A parent cannot get the amount of child support changed just because his or her bills have increased from, say, buying a new home or car.

Can Child Support Payments Ever be Changed?

A Change in Circumstances

Yes. If either parent’s circumstances change, the amount of child support can be adjusted. Now, the circumstances must have changed in a substantial way and be permanent or exist for a continuous period of time.

For instance, if the paying parent lost his or her job, encountered enormous medical expenses, took on the support of other children, or experienced some other hardship that has substantially altered the financial picture, it may be worth bringing it to the court’s attention and seeking an adjustment.

Likewise, if the paying parent’s fortunes change dramatically for the good, it is also possible for the recipient parent to seek an increase in child support.

Colorado states existing child support orders can be modified if:

  • there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances, and
  • the change amounts to at least a 10 percent increase or decrease in the current child support amount, or
  • the current child support order does not contain provisions for medical support, including insurance coverage, medical insurance deductible copayments, or reimbursable medical expenses.

C.R.S. § 14-10-122

While the parties to a divorce may specify that the terms of the separation agreement cannot be modified without the agreement of both parties, modification of a child support order cannot be precluded.

The main issue in a motion to modify child support is what amounts to a “substantial and continuing change.” The burden of proving the “substantial and changed circumstances” is on the party seeking the modification.

Examples of what has qualified as a substantial and continuing change include:
  • a permanent increase or decrease in one or both parties’ income
  • the emancipation of one or more children for whom child support has been ordered
  • the non-custodial parent’s reasonable and necessary business expenses
  • increased income from the sale of business
  • inflation, if when taken into consideration, would result in at least a 10 percent change
  • post-decree inheritance
  • post-decree lottery winnings
  • loss of employment and increased medical expenses due to a medical condition
  • child support ordered for subsequent children unless the modification would result in a less total child support obligation
  • the child’s increased needs, including educational expenses
  • the valid marriage of a minor child which results in emancipation
Examples of what has not qualified as a substantial and continuing change include:
  • temporary loss of employment
  • voluntary unemployment
  • voluntary increase of expenses, such as the purchase of a new house
  • incarceration by itself may not be enough to justify modification
  • death of a supporting parent unless otherwise agreed or expressly provided in the decree
  • increased financial obligations due to re-marriage
Minor Children’s Marriages

If a minor child marries, the child support obligation for that child is terminated since marriage results in immediate emancipation. However, marriage involving a minor child is voidable under Colorado state law. If the marriage is declared invalid, or annulled, then the child support obligation is revived.

The supporting parent is not held responsible for child support during the length of the voidable marriage.

What Happens if I Just Stop Paying Child Support?

You Will Accrue Intrest

If the parent responsible to pay child support stops paying child support, the amount owed doesn’t just go away. It keeps adding up and becomes known as an “arrearage” that carries a high rate of interest. If this situation arises, it is entirely possible for the ex-spouse, their attorney, or even the department of social services to pursue the payor parent for the arrearage.

Other Consequences of Stopping Child Support Payments

Your tax refund could be garnished. An attorney may also arrange for liens on bank accounts and property such as cars and houses to pay for unpaid support.

Your driver’s license may be seized. Your credit report could be affected.

The court can even order your employer to withhold child support funds from your paycheck.

Finally, you should know that bankruptcy will not discharge back child support payments.

Talk to an Attorney About How Child Support is Determined

If you are facing a Colorado divorce involving children, get the help of an experienced child support attorney. Our family law attorneys can discuss with you how child support is determined based on your case’s unique circumstances. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.

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