Frequently Asked Colorado Child Support Questions Part 6
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Main Child Support FAQs