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Child Support Frequently Asked Questions: Support Amounts

Can I get interest on back child support owed to me?

Yes. Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-122, each child support payment not made automatically becomes an enforceable judgment as a matter of law. Additionally, statute indicates the interest shall accrue on the back child support at the rate of 12% per year, compounded monthly, on each payment. Our Denver divorce and custody attorneys have represented both payers and recipients in cases involving back child support and interest. We have seen cases in which the principal amount of child support owed might be $100,000. However, after many years of non-payment, the principal and interest total might be $300,000. It is important for payers to know that this interest is accruing on each missed payment. It is also important for Colorado child support recipients to know that they, or rather their children, are entitled to this interest. Parties to a child support case should be aware that most Child Support Enforcement Units will not deal with the establishment of interest, but will enforce orders or judgments that have interest already calculated.

Can the court make me pay for college?

No. As of July 1, 1997, Colorado courts could no longer force a party to pay for college in any new cases or in cases done prior to that date in which college was not ordered. However, if a party to a child support case, or divorce or custody case, agrees via a written agreement submitted to the court to be responsible for all or part of college costs, a court will generally hold that person to that agreement. See C.R.S. 14-10-115.

Can the court use my wife’s income for calculating child support?

No. The income of new spouses, or spouses in just a custody case, has no bearing on a child support calculation. However, the cost of a spouse to cover the cost of health insurance for a child may be factored into a child support calculation.

Does my husband owe child support from when we separated?

No. In a divorce case, the duty to pay child support starts from either the date of the filing of the case by the party who is to pay child support or service of the petition and summons on the person who is to pay child support. Both of these events give the court jurisdiction over the payer. The same holds true for a custody case. In a paternity case, child support, including birthing costs, can be assessed all the way back to the birth of the child. These points of law are important for both parties to know in terms of when the proverbial financial clock starts ticking.

How do social security payments to the children affect child support?

Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-115(11c), “If cases where the custodial parent receives periodic disability benefits granted by the federal ‘Old-age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance act’ on behalf of dependent children due to the disability of the noncustodial parent or receives employer-paid retirement benefits from the federal benefit on behalf of dependent children due to the retirement of the noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent’s share of the total child support obligation as determined pursuant to subsection (8) of this section shall be reduced in an amount equal to the amount of the benefits. In English, this means that if the child support payer is disable and a monthly check is provided to the custodial parent by the Social Security Administration, the child support obligation should be lowered in a dollar-for-dollar sense. To exemplify, if the father has custody of the children and the mother is paying $500 per month in child support, and mother becomes disabled, and as a result, the government sends $250 per month to the custodial father for the children, then mother’s child support should be modified or reduced down to $250. This statutory provision makes absolute sense, as child support is set based on the state’s determinations of financial need for the children.

Have the child support guideline amounts gone up?

Since January 1, 2014, the child support guideline amounts have gone up. In lay terms, the Colorado legislature amended C.R.S. 14-10-115 by changing the amount reflected in statute that it takes to support a child, or children. In most instances, the amount determined to be needed to support a child went up. For example, in 2008, the amount of support a parent making roughly $100,000 per year would owe for two children, with the other parent making approximately $2000 per month ($24,000 per year) might generate a monthly child support figure owed of $1399. Pursuant to the 2014 amended guidelines, that amount has increased to $1530 per month. Guideline amounts change over time based on inflation and a reflection of the fact that it becomes more costly to meet the day-to-day needs of children. Oddly, though costs have gone up, incomes for most people have not. Using the example above, in 2008, the guidelines indicate that parties making a combined income of $124,000 per year, or $10,333, would have a combined support obligation of $1735. 96 per month, which is split between them proportionate to their incomes. The 2014 guidelines indicate a combined monthly support obligation of $1897.94. Thus, the payer’s monthly child support obligation is $130 higher in 2014 than it would have been in 2013. C.R.S. 14-10-115 does indicate that the change in guideline amounts, standing alone, is not a basis to seek a modification of child support.

Can we agree to an amount that is less than the child support guidelines?

Child support in Colorado is generally established pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-115. In most instances, judges will view adherence to the child support guidelines set forth therein as mandatory. Additionally, many judges view child support as purely for the child, and not something to be diminished by the parents. The public policy consideration regarding this issue relates to the idea that if children are not adequately supported, they may ultimately end up on public assistance. As such, most judges take the position that absent a significant reason, the guidelines will be followed. Our firm has seen instances in which people agree to no child support or lesser child support, only to have a court decline to accept the agreement. If parties to a divorce or child support case wish to agree to a lesser amount, they must present a good reason to the court. C.R.S. 14-10-115(8)(e) allows a court to deviate from the guideline amount if application of the guidelines would be “inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate.” In a situation in which the parties are fighting over a child support amount, there is almost no chance of the court ordering a lesser amount. However, if parties are able to agree to a lesser amount and present a valid reason for such to the court, courts will generally sign off on that agreement. For example, if the guideline child support amount is $1000 per month, to be paid by the father, but the parties agree to no child support, or lesser child support, because he is paying $2000 per month for private school, the court is likely to accept the agreement. Each case and set of circumstances is different and must be assessed as such by an attorney. There is no black-and-white rule as to when a court will accept a lesser amount and when it will not.

Will the court use my bonus or commission as part of my income for child support?

Yes. C.R.S. 14-10-115 lays out what specifics items are going to be included as income for child support calculation purposes. Said statute makes no distinction between “salary” and bonuses or commission. In variably, the statement following this question is going to be, “my bonus is not guaranteed.” Courts recognize that bonuses or commissions may not be guaranteed. Courts also recognize that they can fluctuate based on industry trends as well as changes in compensation policies handed down by the employer. In most situations in which a party to a child support case receives bonuses or commissions, a court will likely do an average. There is no set rule on the time frame leading to the average figure. One can expect a 3 to 5 year assessment. Depending on the circumstances, your attorney may wish to shorten or lengthen the period assessed. There are some caveats. In a situation in which bonus or commission can be tracked on an increasing scale, the other party may argue that really the most recent year should be looked at, as it is likely the increasing pattern will continue. Conversely, the party in question may ask the court to look at the most recent year if his or her income is on a clearly declining slope. Again, there is no set rule and outcomes may depend on the personal beliefs of the judge.

How do you calculate how much you pay for child support?

Child support calculations are done in Colorado pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-115. Section 115 sets forth a table indicating what the monthly obligation to support a child or children would be based on the parents combined monthly gross incomes. In Colorado, calculations are done by attorneys or pro-se people using specific software. Relevant numbers or factors are plugged into the calculation and a bottom line, monthly child support amount is generated. Specifically, the typical factors going into a calculation are going to be the parents’ incomes, number of children, number of overnight visits, cost of work related child care, and the monthly health insurance premium paid for the child or children. Items such as child care or insurance are factored into the child support calculation and split between the parties proportionately to their individual incomes.

Are sports fees included in child support?

Sports fees or other extracurricular actives are, typically, not built into a child support worksheet. Thus, they are not “included” in the child support calculation. However, it is quite common for the cost of activities and how those costs will be split to be included in a divorce or child custody agreement as relates to child support. Colorado statute generally authorizes the court to allocate activity costs for activities tied into a child’s educational pursuits or development. Sports are not necessarily educational in nature. In instances in which the parents have agreed to a child engaging in a sport and the child has done so for quite some time, the court may, by force, order the costs of such to be split. However, absent a past, mutually agreed upon track record tied into a sport or activity, judges will often indicate they only have the ability to enforce orders regarding the splitting of costs for mutually agreed upon activities. If your child’s activities and dealing with the cost of such is important to you, make sure to discuss the issue with your attorney when formulating your child support and child custody orders.

When calculating child support, how is income determined for self-employed people.

For self-employed individuals, the key is determining what there personal income is, which is severable from the business income, or revenue, from the business. Statute specifically indicates that for purpose of determine income when calculating child support, normal business expenses should be deducted from the gross revenues of the business to determine personal income. In essence, income is going to be the profit of the business. Litigation can ensue regarding what are legitimate business expenses and what are not. Likewise, it’s not uncommon for some small business owners to pay various personal expenses from their business accounts. Determining income for self employed people can become a complex and detailed endeavor in some cases and it’s not uncommon for self employed people to understate their income, whether intentionally or based on bad information. if parties cannot agree upon an income figure for a self employed person, the judge presiding over the child support hearing will ultimately decide what figure to use.

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