How do you calculate child support in Colorado? The answer depends on whether you’re talking about the presumption, guidelines, or discretion.
The best way to figure this out, and avoid the trauma and long battle at court, is to get help from a family lawyer. State rules can vary, and many factors are at play once money is involved.
But if you’re a non-custodial parent in Colorado, understanding how child support works is vital to avoid owing more than necessary.
If you are the custodial parent (the one with whom your children live) in Colorado, knowing what your ex should pay for support can help ensure they do so.
Coverage of Child Support in Colorado
When parents divorce, there are often huge issues of conflict over custody and visitation schedules. Often, problems arise when figuring out who pays for day-to-day expenses like housing (rent or mortgage), utilities (gas, water, power), food costs, and transportation costs.
The person paying child support may agree to help pay for housing and transportation because the kids live with the other parent, but he may question paying anything else. However, there is no legal requirement in Colorado for non-custodial parents to contribute financially towards the day-to-day expenses of their children.
The law says that one spouse will pay child support to another until the child reaches 18 or dies before reaching such age. It also states that child support shall continue past the age of majority if your son or daughter is disabled beyond a certain level considered normal under federal law. In that case, a court can order continued support payments until the disability is removed or that person reaches 21 years.
Support can also continue if the child is enrolled in a full-time course of study in an accredited school, trade, or professional institution.
The Presumptive Amount
Under Colorado law, courts presume that it’s appropriate for the non-custodial parent to pay support for their children based on “the standard of living and circumstances of the parents.” This is called the child support presumptive amount. Courts are supposed to use this figure as a starting point when figuring out who should pay what amount toward child support.
If you’re asking why there is no direct relationship between income, expenses, and the amount of child support ordered, then think about what happens after you’ve taken care of housing costs by requiring one party to make monthly payments toward those expenses.
For many people, it’s just not enough. If an amount that someone can afford to pay is lower than the presumptive amount and your income is significantly higher than the other parent’s, then you might be obligated to pay more support.
If you’re a non-custodial parent and your children spend multiple nights per week or extended periods with you during the year, then Colorado courts may consider those as “overnights” for child support purposes.
Even if those overnights don’t result in additional expenses for housing or transportation, you would still owe at least half of the basic child support obligation as calculated by using “the standard of living and circumstances of the parents.”
When figuring out who pays for extracurricular activities or support that may be ordered in addition to the presumptive amount, courts in Colorado are encouraged to use the child support guidelines. The presumptive amount is calculated by using a mathematical formula with several variables in it.
The Child Support Formula
The actual equation involves multiplying at least one of the parent’s incomes (or sometimes both) by a set percentage number based on how many kids there are and whether they live with you half-time or more than half-time. The resulting figure can be adjusted up or down depending on various factors involving health care expenses, taxes paid, and anything else that could affect your ability to pay that amount each month for child support.
The court then adds another 10 percent per child (not in any of the previous calculations) of the total amount of both parents’ incomes. Then, they subtract certain deductions, which are standard for everyone, like taxes paid and health insurance premiums out-of-pocket. This gives you your basic child support amount on which everything else is built.
When figuring up these expenses, courts are required to look at how much it costs to provide transportation for children who are too young to drive as well as other healthcare needs not covered by insurance or other means. They also consider whether any special needs exist, like a child with a disability or medical condition requiring additional support.
Child support is an agreement between two people that one parent will contribute a certain amount per month toward the financial well-being of their children. Although much remains constant from state to state in terms of how this is calculated and even who pays what, there may be variations depending on what county you live in.
In general, though, it tends to be based on several factors, including income and expenses, regardless of the amount you’re awarded.