Calculating Child Support

How much child support will I have to pay? How much child support will my ex-spouse have to pay? These are common questions that need to be answered so that you can prepare for the future after divorce or separation. The calculation of child support is complicated. The Colorado State Judicial Branch has provided lawyers and parents with a worksheet to help calculate support (which is linked below), however, every case is different. The application of your circumstances to the child support guidelines must be considered carefully to make sure that all rules and exceptions are applied. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney to make sure that you do not shortchange yourself.

In Colorado, child support is governed by section 14-10-115 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. This long and complicated section contains guidelines for child support based upon the income of the parents and the amount of parenting time exercised by each parent. While the amount of support will vary depending on the circumstances of the parties and children, the code contains a formula to calculate the child support that is presumed to be in the best interest of the children. A Microsoft Excel spreadsheet containing the formula is available from the Colorado State Judicial Branch, and can be found here– Child Support Worksheet. Instructions on how to fill out the worksheet can be found here–Instructions.

There are two major elements to the child support formula: the parties’ relative income and the amount of time each parent spends with the children. The guidelines will also consider other factors, including the number of other children for which one of the parents owes a duty of support, extraordinary medical expenses, day care expenses, and the cost of health insurance.

With respect to the parties combined income, gross incomes generally include all full-time income from each parent. Some exceptions apply. For instance, overtime is sometimes included in a child support calculation, but sometimes it is not included; it depends whether the job requires overtime or not. As a general rule, a party is not required to work more than one full-time job to support his or her children. If a party is unemployed or underemployed, the Court may treat that parent as though they were working full time at a job for which they were qualified. For example, an executive capable of earning $100,000 per year who would be able to find work in her profession would not be able to quit her job and go to work flipping burgers for minimum wage in order to lower her child support. If she did that then the Court would probably calculate child support as though she were earning up to her potential. If a parent is able-bodied, then absent good cause the Courts will presume that they are capable of earning at least minimum wage and working forty hours per week. Other exceptions and rules apply. Contact the Law Office of Kirk Garner or another attorney of your choice to obtain legal advice.

As stated above, the child support guidelines will also take into account the amount of parenting time that each parent spends with the children. Parenting time is calculated by adding the number of times per year that the children spend with each parent. If the children spend fewer than 92 nights with one parent, then child support is not affected. As the parenting time becomes more equal, and the children spend more than 92 nights with each parent, the amount of child support starts to equalize between the parents. The unfortunate effect of the equalization is that one parent or another may seek more overnight periods of possession than they are really prepared to handle just so that they can lower their child support obligation. Likewise, the other parent may seek to unfairly limit the other parent’s visits to increase the amount of support they receive. Nevertheless, I believe that Colorado’s method of calculation is better than other states’ that only consider the income of one parent.

Child support is generally payable until a child reaches nineteen years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. Child support may terminate earlier in certain circumstances. The law does not require a parent to provide financial support for a child after age nineteen. Thus, parents are not required to pay for their children’s college education.

If you have questions about how much child support you can expect to receive or pay upon divorce or separation, please call Kirk Garner today to set up an appointment!