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Child Support Frequently Asked Questions: General

Can I make my ex pay for private school?

Generally, the answer is, “no.” Colorado child support statutes center on the norm, which is usually public schools. In a joint decision-making situation in which people share joint legal custody, each has veto power as to major decisions. Thus, for a child to attend private school, the parties must agree. Even in a situation in which one parent has sole decision making, a court is not going to force the other to pay for private school, absent a provable agreement between the parties or vast financial resources. However, there are instances in which a court will order that children attend private school and that the cost be split equally. We have seen instances in which the children attend private school prior to the time the parties separate and file a case. In such instances, assuming there are adequate financial resources for such, a court will generally order that the children remain at their private school(s) and that the parties split the cost proportionate to income. In such instances, the party paying, or both parties, will be allowed to include what he or she pays for private schooling as an “extraordinary expense” on the child support worksheet. Inclusion of this cost can lower or raise child support, depending upon whether the payer or payee is paying for school.

Can I put my kids on my new wife’s health insurance?

Generally, the answer to this question is, “yes.” Statute requires that if health insurance is available at a reasonable rate, one of the parties must provide such for the children. The monthly cost for covering the children’s health insurance needs is one of the figures generally added into a child support calculation. As people split up, or divorce, and move on, they often remarry. As people remarry, situations can arise in which the person required, under court order, to provide health insurance, has a new spouse who may be able to provide it for less, or may be able to provide it should the obligor lose his or her job and the ability to provide coverage. Statute does not prohibit a party required to provide health insurance for the children from obtaining such through his or her new spouse. The law, and Denver area divorce courts, recognize that families evolve and that the end goal is meeting the children’s needs, regardless of who might be the actual policy holder on an insurance plan. Of course, a new spouse’s plan should be similar in coverage to a prior plan. Additionally, the other party’s insurance options should be looked into as well. So long as there is adequate coverage, less cost for monthly premiums will ultimately mean monetary savings for both parties.

My ex-wife is moving out of state. Can she make me pay for travel costs?

Yes. In this fluid economy and job market, it is more common than in the past to see one parent or the other leaving Colorado for work or personal reasons. In light of such, Denver custody lawyers are faced with two issues: establishing visitation reflecting one parent being out of state and the issue of travel costs. Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-115(11)(a)(II), “any expenses for transportation of the child, or the child and an accompanying parent if the child is less than twelve years of age, between the homes of the parents” shall be split proportionate to income. Courts are not concerned with which parent moved away and will not require that parent to pay all the cost of transporting the child for visitation because of his or her decision. At the same time, courts will generally import reason into any order regarding travel costs. Plane tickets can be expensive. Courts recognize this. As such, courts will generally try to fashion orders such that there are a few visits a year for which the parties split the cost, such as Summer Break, Winter Break, and Spring Break. Courts are generally not going to order the splitting of the cost for monthly visitation, as they recognize the general inability for most people to pay such an expense. Technically speaking, transportation expenses could also include the cost of gas. It is highly unlikely to see a court order gas costs to be split in cases in which people are traveling within the Denver metropolitan area. However, if one party is in Parker and the other in Grand Junction, it would be appropriate for a court to order the cost of gas to be split. As per statute, with younger children, the court can also order the splitting of the cost for a parent to travel with that child. Little children cannot fly alone and most parents are not comfortable with a five or six-year-old traveling as an unaccompanied minor. As the cost of airfare, or gas, can fluctuate, it is uncommon for courts to order that a specific amount be put into a child support calculation. Rather, orders will generally reflect one party incurring the cost of transportation and the other reimbursing him or her within a specific time frame.

What are my rights as a father paying child support?

A father paying child support will generally also have rights within the court case to seek child custody and visitation orders. To do so, you will have to assert yourself. Child support and child custody issues are separate and you do not automatically just gain custodial rights because you are a father paying child support. As solely relates to child support, you do have the right to have child support calculated accurately under the law. You also have the right so seek modifications of child support should circumstances change in the future. Lastly, you may also have rights regarding claiming the income tax dependency exemption for the child in certain years, though that right may be going away due to the 2017/18 changes to IRS Code.

Can parents agree not to pay child support?

Parents in a Colorado child support case can agree that neither of them pays the other support. However, for such an agreement to be adopted by the court, they must be able to state a logical and compelling reason. From the court’s perspective, child support is for the child. Courts are very hesitant to deviate from the child support guidelines absent a good and mutually agreed upon reason. From a public policy standpoint, payment of child support from one parent to the other, as per the statutory guidelines, may prevent the need for one parent or the other seeking public assistance at the taxpayers’ expense. An exception to the norm might be a case in which the child support amount as per the statutory guidelines is minimal, such as $50 or $100 per month. Each case and each judge is different. While some judges may be more inclined to allow a deviation, others may not.


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