The cost of child support is a major concern for non-custodial parents. Regardless of whether you’re divorcing or simply live apart from your child and the child’s mother, Colorado’s child support laws work the same. This article by Littleton Family Law Attorney Bonnie Shields will help you understand how your Colorado child support is computed.
Colorado Child Support Formulas / Worksheets
To promote fairness, uniformity and predictability, Colorado relies upon a couple of formulas, which are called Child Support Worksheets, to determine the amount of child support that is owed by a parent. One formula, Worksheet A, is used when the child or children are kept by the parent paying child support less than 93 nights per year. This situation is called Sole Physical Care. The other formula, Worksheet B, is used when the child or children are kept by each parent more than 92 nights per year. This situation is called Shared Physical Care. The goal of these formulas is to take into account the amount each parent spends on the child when the child stays overnight. However, these child support worksheets are mere guidelines for the court to follow and establish a presumption of the proper child support amount, the courts still have some discretion to deviate from the formulas.
How the Child Support Worksheets Work
The child support worksheets start from a few assumptions: that a parent pays all of a child’s expenses when the child is overnighting with that parent and that a child’s lifestyle is the result of the parents’ income and should not affected by the parents’ divorce or separation. Because of this, the child support worksheets focus on two major factors: what is the parents’ income and how many overnight stays does each parent receive on an annual basis. Essentially the formula determines that each child requires a specific portion of the combined parental income, and then allocates that portion based on how many overnights the parents have.
What Can A Lawyer Do to Adjust a Child Support Award?
Given that the award of child support is generally formulaic, you may be wondering “why hire a lawyer at all?” A knowledgable family law attorney like Bonnie Shields can help you ensure that the child support worksheet clearly reflects your income and circumstances by including certain items of income, excluding certain items and by dealing with specialized facts and issues in your particular case. While you may think you know your gross income, an attorney can help you identify facts and circumstances that may directly effect the child support calculation such as whether “overtime” is counted, whether a parties’ income should be “imputed,” whether additional children of one or both of the parties changes the support for their joint children, and many other factors that you are not likely aware of. Why pay more in child support or receive less in child support merely because you didn’t understand the law in this area?
Special Issues with Child Support
The child support worksheets don’t cover all possible scenarios that can come up in the determination of child support. For instance, the worksheet should not apply to a family that has a combined income of more than $20,000 per month, in such cases the courts will look to evidence of the child’s standard of living. There can also be issues that arise relating to extraordinary expenses of the child, including: the child’s education, health insurance and related costs, extracurricular activity costs, travel costs and special needs costs. A family law attorney should always be consulted when dealing with child support to help identify such situations and how to address them.