Frequently Asked Colorado Child Support Questions Part 1
- How is child support determined?
In Colorado, Child Support is determined based on several factors set forth in statute, specifically Colorado Revised Statutes Title 14, Article 10, Section 115. The end result of a child support calculation is a monetary, monthly figure that one of the parent will be required to pay to the other.
C.R.S. 14-10-115 starts the calculation of child support by looking at the core figure, or figures, the first of which is the combined, adjusted gross monthly income of the parents. The second major figure in the determination of child support is the number of children shared between the parents. Statute specifically includes a table laying out what the monthly, combined support obligation for a child would be between two parents given their combined, adjusted gross incomes. That monthly, combined figure increases with each child added to the family. For example, the Section 115 table indicates that in a family in which the parents have a combined, adjusted gross income of two- thousand, nine-hundred dollars ($2,900) per month, the amount necessary to support one child, given their incomes, would be $517 per month. With two children, the figure would be $797 per month, and with three children the figure would be $974 per month. The figure goes up with each new child added to the equation, though it does not go double, or triple. As the number of children goes up, the “per child” figure goes down.
If the parents in another family have a combined, adjusted gross monthly income of twelve-thousand, seven-hundred, and fifty dollars ($12,750), the combined support obligation for one child would be $1,421 per month. Adding a second child would raise the monthly figure to $2,146, and adding a third child increases it to $2,569. Thus, the higher the combined adjusted gross monthly income for a family, the greater amount the state legislature has determined they can, or should pay, to raise their children.
Once the support obligation combined between the parents is determined, the next step in the calculation is apportioning what percentage each parent pays of that combined monthly support obligation. For example, using the family making $12,750 per month, if the mother makes $10,000 of that income and the father makes $2,750, mother’s proportionate share of the income would be 78.43 percent, and father’s share would, therefore, be 21.57 percent. Statute then applies those percentages to the support obligation. Thus, if there is one child, mother would be responsible for $1,114.49 of the $1421 and father would be responsible for $306.51. This does not necessarily mean this is the monthly child support figure either parent pays to the other.
The next major factor to be looked at is residential custody and parenting time. When parents share or split custody, the monthly child support figure one might pay to the other starts to go down incrementally. The specific number of overnights at which support starts to go down is 93 over nights per year. Again, using the $12,750 example above, if the child lives primarily with the mother and father has less than 93 overnights of parenting time per year, he will pay the $306.51 per month in child support to her and the calculation will be set forth on a “Worksheet A.” If father has the child 93 overnights per year, or more, the child support figure will conceivably start to go down and he will be on a “Worksheet B.” Infact, at some point along the overnight range, mother could end up having to pay child support to father. The variation tied into overnights stems from the fact that at the 93 overnight point, the other parent is starting to share primary duties, including financial duties, a decent portion of the time.
When dealing with calculations, Denver child support attorneys are not writing out these figures which pencil and paper (and calculator). Instead, attorneys use specific software which easily runs the calculations once the proper data is inputted.
Beyond the calculation of the basic support obligation, there are other factors which can affect the monthly child support amount. If either parent is paying support for or caring for his/her own child of another relationship, statute reduces his/her incomes to be used for calculation purposes. More commonly, there may be various, known child expenses which properly get built into the child support worksheet. These factors are work or school related child care, monthly health insurance premiums, and other known, static child expenses. These types of expenses are split proportionately between the parents on the child support worksheet and can lead to the monthly child support figure increasing or decreasing from the basic calculation baseline.
Child support matters can become quite complex when it comes to determining what figures are appropriately inputted into the calculation. Legal battles can arise over income, the overnight figure to use, or what the cost of monthly health insurance really is. It should be noted that the same calculation used for an initial establishment of child support is also used for modifying child support.
- How long do I have to pay child support?
Unless a child is still in high school (up to age 21), or is disabled to the point of being unable to take care of himself or herself, child support runs until the child turns 19 years of age. If the child enters the military before then or truly becomes self-sufficient, child support may terminate prior due to the child's "emancipation.” In instances where a court order from another state is registered in Colorado for modification or enforcement purposes, the age from the original state will govern.
- 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.
- 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.
- I bought a new house and car and my payments have doubled, so I can't afford my child support. Can I get it changed?
No. Courts do not generally factor in personal expenses for child support purposes. Child support has nothing to do with one's personal expense or whether he can afford to pay. Most courts view the child support guideline amounts as binding and what should be paid. A child support payer should always factor in his or her monthly child support payment as the most important expense when budgeting or taking on new financial obligations.
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