Child Support

The purpose of child support is to provide adequate support for children subject to the ability of the parents to pay. In almost every APR (aka custody) case or divorce involving minor children, child support will be ordered by the court.

The amount of child support is determined using the guideline calculation contained in C.R.S. 14-10-115. The factors which go into the child support calculation are: 1) number of children; 2) number of overnights each parent has with the children; 3) the income of each parent; 4) and any other statutory adjustments.

Number of Children

This is a pretty easy number to figure out. Generally, the court only counts children under the age of 19 for the purposes of child support but there are exceptions. For instance: if a child of parties is 19 or older but requires significant care from the parents due to a disability, that child can count for the purposes of child support.

Number of Overnights

The number of overnights each party has during a calendar year is a significant part of the child support calculation. It’s difficult to determine a child support amount without first getting an accurate estimate for the number of overnights each party will have. As a result, parties usually will not attempt to pin down the child support amount until first figuring out the parenting plan.

Parenting plans do not include a schedule for every day of the child’s life until they turn 19. Often, they have a basic schedule such as week on/week off or 5-2-2-5. This makes calculating the number of overnights somewhat inexact. However, the parties should be able to get the number of overnights to within 5 or so. If there is a significant difference between the parties’ calculations for overnights there is probably an issue with interpreting the parenting plan and it’s a good indication the language in the parenting plan needs to be reviewed.

Income of the Parties

This seemingly simple factor can lead to significant disagreement and litigation. The child support statute definition of includes basically all sources of income with certain exceptions including: 1) Child support payments received; 2) Benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs; 3) Income from additional jobs that result in the employment of the obligor more than forty hours per week or more than what would otherwise be considered to be full-time employment; 4) Social security benefits received by the minor children, or on behalf of the minor children, as a result of the death or disability of a stepparent are not to be included as income for the minor children for the determination of child support; and 5) Earnings or gains on a retirement account.

When a party has only W-2 income with no overtime or bonuses it is easy to determine their income. The determination gets more complicated when a party’s income is variable or if the party is self-employed.

In many cases, a party will attempt to reduce the actual or apparent amount of their income to reduce their child support obligation or to increase the amount of child support they receive. There are several ways to combat this but it’s best to do so with the guidance of an attorney.

Statutory Adjustments

The most common statutory adjustments to child support are medical insurance premiums for the children and child-care costs. Other examples include private school and transportation expenses. Generally, these adjustments are shared by the parties in proportion to their income.

Support Order

If the parties can agree on the amount of child support, they can draft a support order and submit it to the judge for approval. If they are unable to agree, the judge will calculate the child support amount based on the statutory factors and issue a support order. In either event, the support order will continue until it is modified. Read more about modifying child support.

This page is only a brief overview of this issue and should not be treated as an authoritative guide. There is no substitute for advice from an experienced lawyer. If you have any questions about this, or any other issue, please do not hesitate to call our office at (720) 295-4196 or email [email protected].