Colorado child support laws call for both parents to financially support their child. The child, not the parent, has a right to monetary provisions, a detail that can get lost in the midst of a divorce or custody dispute.
The family law attorneys of Robinson & Henry, P.C. can help you untangle the complicated, and often contentious, matters that arise with Colorado child support.
Colorado child support guidelines are meant to be straightforward, but each case is different and presents unique challenges. Therefore, not all child support awards will match up exactly with the state’s recommendations. State law does not require it.
Experience When You Need It
We help clients resolve all types of child support issues, including initial plans, modifications, and enforcement.
Colorado child support is typically ordered until a child turns 19 years old. So if you have a young child, there’s ample time for events and disputes to crop up that necessitate legal counsel.
Our Colorado child support attorneys can help you throughout your child’s life. We aggressively work to protect children and parental rights.
Robinson & Henry, P.C. offers free initial child support consultations.
To schedule time with one of our award-winning attorneys call (303) 688-0944.
How is child support determined in Colorado?
In Colorado, state law outlines how much a parent should pay in child support. Courts use a formula that includes parental income, custody, and expenses to generate a figure.
Sounds pretty black and white, right? In theory, yes. But disagreements about the numbers that go into the formula can lead to litigation.
If you have questions about the figures included in your child’s financial support documents, our family law attorneys can provide clarity.
Income Shares Model
Family courts typically apply one of three models to calculate child support: the Income Shares Model, the Percentage of Income Model, and the Melson Formula.
Colorado courts use the Income Shares Model.
In most homes, parents pool salaries to support the children. The Income Shares Model ensures the same share continues to care for the child after the divorce.
The calculation is based on:
- Each parent’s gross monthly income
- The number of children to support
- How many nights are spent with each parent
- The amount each parent pays toward health insurance and child care
These factors are not the end all be all to determining child support. Each family has its own issues and additional expenses, such as ongoing medical or extracurricular costs, which will be examined when reaching a figure.
What’s Considered Income?
While state law is very specific about what is deemed income (see the list below), there are also a number of exceptions.
Additionally, courts have the discretion to review income and make a decision that is outside the state’s parameters.
In one Colorado case, a woman argued child support calculations should include her ex-husband’s future bonuses. The father argued annual bonus were never certain. The case ended up in appeals court.
The Colorado Court of Appeals found in favor of the father. Here’s the court’s opinion:
“We recognize that C. R. S. 14-10-115(7)(a)(I)(A) specifically includes bonuses and commissions in the definition of gross incomes used to calculate child support. However, here, the trial court made a factual finding, which is supported by husband’s testimony, that there was no guarantee of future bonuses.
Because of a lack of certainty of future bonuses, the court directed the parties to exchange copies of their W–2 tax information on an annual basis. Thus, if husband receives a future bonus of significance, that information will be available to the wife as the basis for a modified child support order. Under these circumstances, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to estimate the amount of any possible future bonuses for present support purposes.”
|Salaries||Royalties||Capital gains||Insurance funds that replaces wages|
|Bonuses||Rents||Social Security benefits||Monetary gifts|
|Dividends||Interest||Workers’ compensation benefits||Monetary prizes, excluding lottery winnings|
|Severance pay||Trust income||Unemployment insurance benefits||Income from partnerships and corporations|
|Pensions and retirement benefits||Annuities||Disability insurance benefits||Expense reimbursements|
|In-kind payments||Alimony||Overtime pay if required by employer||Payments from being self-employed|
|Commissions||Wages, including tips|
|*Full descriptions, C.R.S. §14-10-115|
|Child support payments||Earnings or gains on a retirement account|
|Public assistance benefits||Minor children’s social security benefits|
Establishing a Child Support Payment
There are several ways to reach a child support number. How you arrive at it can even depend on the tone of your divorce.
If your split is congenial, you and your spouse may be able to come up with a payment on your own. Some individuals prefer their attorney hash it out with the other party strictly using the state’s worksheet. And sometimes, in a contentious situation, a family court judge makes an order.
It’s important to point out that if you agree to a child support amount that strays too far from state recommendations, a judge may not accept it, and a new payment could be imposed.
Considerations of the Courts
In addition to income, parenting time, and the number of minor children, courts also weigh:
- The parents’ financial resources
- The child’s physical and emotional condition
- The child’s education needs
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended
When parents split up, children experience many changes and stressors, including adjusting to a new family structure.
Our experienced Colorado child support attorneys can help make this difficult transition easier for your child by working to ensure they experience as few financial disruptions as possible.
Child support covers a child’s basic needs, as well as ongoing costs or ones that pop up from time to time. Examples of basic expenses are rent, daycare, and clothes. Extraordinary expenses can costs such as soccer equipment, college entrance exam prep, and class field trips.
|BASIC EXPENSES||EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES|
|Food||Costs not covered by health insurance|
|Housing||Sports, Hobbies (equipment, uniforms)|
|Child care||School field trips|
|School costs (e.g. lunches, supplies)||Private school|
|General medical and dental care|
Extraordinary Medical Expenses Based on Colorado Law
Colorado law defines extraordinary medical expenses as costs not covered by insurance. These uninsured expenses can include co-pays and deductibles that exceed $250 per child each year.
Extraordinary expenses can include:
- Dental care
- Orthodontia treatment
- Asthma treatment
- Physical therapy
- Vision care
- Chronic health conditions
Behavioral and mental health counseling and therapy may be considered extraordinary medical expenses at the court’s discretion.
Preparing for Extraordinary Expenses
When it comes to paying for extraordinary expenses, you have a couple of options. You can take care of them as they arise, try to account for them on your worksheet, or arrange a combination of the two.
Changes in Expenses
Let’s say your child takes piano lessons each week. For now, you can count on that being a monthly expense. You can include the lessons in the worksheet and each parent pays their proportional share of the cost.
You’ll also have to consider how the two of you will approach new extraordinary expenses. For instance, what if your child wants to ditch piano lessons for equestrian show jumping (not exactly a cheap sport)?
Some parents include a clause in their Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan. The clause may mandate that both parties must agree to new extraordinary expenses before the child takes up a new sport, for example.
These types of clauses can discourage unilateral decisions and protect a parent from being stuck with an expensive bill.
This scenario does not include emergencies.
Who Gets Colorado Child Support?
Many individuals mistakenly believe they’ll automatically be awarded child support because they earn less money or have the kids more often. While it’s true that the parent who has the smaller salary often receives financial support, it’s not always the case. Parenting time plays a key role.
Today, many children spend equal time with their parents. That helps level the child support playing field, so to speak.
When overnights are no longer a factor, child support comes down to income and expenses.
Information for the Stay-at-Home Parent
While a majority of households today have dual incomes, there are still plenty of families where only one spouse works. If you’re the non-working spouse in a divorce, you may wonder how your current employment status will affect the child support order.
When a court determines child support where only one parent earns money, the judge has the option to impute income to the stay-at-home parent. That means, when the court calculates child support it can factor in what the non-working spouse has the potential to make.
A judge will consider your specific situation – Can you physically work? Do you have an infant?
The court will evaluate your skills, education, and work history. Given your background, the judge can assign potential income and use it to determine child support.
Even if you have no work experience you could still be assigned potential income of 40 hours a week at minimum wage.
“If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income; except that a determination of potential income shall not be made for a parent who is physically or mentally incapacitated or is caring for a child under the age of thirty months for whom the parents owe a joint legal responsibility or for an incarcerated parent sentenced to one year or more.”
Work for Yourself?
It can be complicated to calculate income if you’re self-employed. Robinson & Henry’s child support attorneys can clarify what you should legally claim when you are trying to determine your financial obligations.
Modifying Colorado Child Support Payments
Circumstances can occur with the child or the parent that would warrant a change in financial support. By state law, the change has to be “substantial and continuing,” and it must affect the child support by at least 10 percent. (C.R.S. §14-10-122(1)(a)).
Common Modification Scenarios
- Income – This is a very common reason for a modification request. When a parent gets a new job or loses one, it can have a substantial affect on their salary. If one party gets a significant raise, the other party may ask for an increase in child support. On the flip side, if a party changes jobs and experiences a decline in wages, they may ask to reduce their monthly payments.
- Parenting Time – A significant change in overnight stays with one parent or the other would be a reason for a parent to request to alter child support. For instance, if dad goes from having the children 104 days out of the year to splitting time 50 percent, there would be plausible reason to request a modification.
- Cost of Care – When there’s a change in the cost of basic needs, a court may adjust child support. For instance, if there’s a considerable spike in monthly rates for health insurance or day care, the parent who pays for it may be able to receive some financial relief. On the flip side, if the parent who pays for those expenses enjoys a substantial price break, the savings could prompt the other parents to request a modification.
- New Expenses – You can ask for a modification if your child is injured or becomes ill and requires ongoing care. Child support can be adjusted if the child needs to be placed in a special facility or school.
- Healthcare Coverage – If the current child support order does not contain a provision regarding medical insurance and expenses, a modification can be warranted.
What if I’m Not Receiving Payments?
Sometimes a parent who owes child support has a legitimate reason why they are unable to meet their financial obligation. Other times, the paying parent intentionally fails to make the monthly payments.
When the latter is the case, it can cause an undue financial burden on the child’s primary caregiver. Colorado Child Support Services helps parents collect on existing child support orders.
The non-paying parent can be held in contempt of court, risk jail time and court fines. Additionally, unpaid child support accrues interest.
There are a number of remedies to recover child support that is in arrears and encourage payment:
- Wage Garnishment – Child support can be withheld from the parent’s paycheck.
- Retain State Refund Check – The state could take the parent’s tax refund check.
- Liens on Bank Accounts and Property – An attorney may be able to arrange for liens to be placed on the non-paying parent’s car or house.
- Driver License Seizure – The state could revoke the offending parent’s driver license.
- Hit to Credit Report – A negative entry can be added on the parent’s credit report by the state.
Colorado Child Support Attorneys | Robinson & Henry, P.C.
If you’re facing a divorce with children or have a post-decree issue, you can depend on the experienced family law attorneys of Robinson & Henry.
Our child support lawyers are well versed about the intricacies of divorce, child support, and child custody in Colorado.
Our assertive attorneys will advocate for your rights at the negotiating table and in a court of law.
Schedule an assessment with one of our family law attorneys at (303) 688-0944.