Child Support

In Colorado, child support is generally calculated by using several factors that are put into a child support program and the resulting child support is then calculated. To “plug” in the numbers is quite simple and fast, however, some of the factors that go into it can be complicated.

The child support calculations changed in Colorado on January 1, 2014. As a general rule, the amount of child support owed under the new guidelines is higher than it used to be.

Essentially, the primary factors are:

  1. The gross monthly income of each parent.
    This can get quite complicated when one or both parents is self-employed, has two jobs, is “underemployed,” or not employed at all. The judge will expect you to be working full-time unless you are staying home caring for a child under 30 months old (there are a few exceptions). If you choose not to work, the judge will decide how much you could be making, if you were making an honest effort to get a job, and use that “income” to determine child support. If you are receiving maintenance (alimony), that amount is added onto your wages for your total gross monthly income. If you are working a full time job and a part-time job, only the full time job will count as your income for child support purposes.
  2. The number of children age 18 or under. If a child is under 19 but emancipated (supporting themselves) then they won’t be counted on the child support worksheet.
  3. Other children that you or the other parent have that are not of this relationship if you are supporting those children. This can seem rather unfair because your child support obligation will be a little higher if the other parent has other children at home that are not your children, but that is the way the process works.
  4. Number of overnights – the number of overnights that the children spend with each parent can have a great impact on the child support figure. If a parent has 92 or less overnights per year with the child, the child support is one number. Once a parent has 93 overnights per year, their support obligation goes down a little more for every overnight above 93.
  5. Health insurance – the amount of health/dental insurance that a parent pays to insure the children goes on the worksheet and lowers that parent’s support obligation.
  6. Day care expenses – the amount of day care expenses that a parent pays for day care while they work or go to school is put on the worksheet and lowers their child support obligation.
  7. Extraordinary expenses – sometimes the court will give a parent “credit” for certain expenses that are “extraordinary.” Some examples are orthodontic payments and money spent towards therapy for the child. There are other expenses that count as “extraordinary expenses” as well. One common expense that comes up is car insurance and the courts have determined that car insurance is NOT an extraordinary expense.

Even though there is a formula to calculate child support, the judge has the power to “deviate” from that number and order a different amount if there is a really good reason to do so. I don’t see this happen often but I do see it happen.

Oftentimes parents will come to an agreement for a certain amount of child support or decide that neither of them will pay child support. Generally the court likes to use the guidelines. If you want to “deviate” from the guidelines you will need a really good reason. Rarely does the court allow there to be no child support at all because children have a right to be supported by both parents and the judges don’t like to waive those rights.