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!

How Alimony Works in Colorado, Part Two

Calculating temporary alimony can be a contentious process.

Calculating temporary alimony can be a contentious process.

In Part I of my series about alimony in Colorado (which you can read here), I discussed how alimony (officially called “maintenance”) is awarded as part of temporary orders while a divorce is pending.  Specifically, that post dealt with the formula that is presumptively applied when the parties earn a combined annual income of $75,000 or less.  In this post, I will continue with the discussion of temporary maintenance (that is, maintenance awarded before the divorce is final) for situations in which the spouses together earn more than $75,000 per year.

When the husband and wife’s combined annual income is greater than $75,000 per year, there is no presumptive formula or guideline for the court to apply.  As such, the amount to be awarded is determined on a case-by-case basis.  Each case is different, and different judges will calculate temporary alimony differently.

Step 1.  Is a spouse eligible for temporary maintenance? The first thing that the court must determine is whether the spouse seeking alimony is eligible to receive it.  The court must find that the seeking spouse:

(a)    Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him or her, to provide for his or her reasonable needs; and
(b)    Is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.

“Reasonable needs” and “appropriate employment” are considered in light of the expectations that the spouses have developed during the marriage.  “Reasonable needs” means more than bare essentials, but considers the spouses’ lifestyle during the marriage.  “Appropriate employments” means employment suited to the individual.  Not just any job, but a job suited to the person.

Step Two. Determining the Amount of Temporary Maintenance.Once the court determines that a spouse lacks sufficient property to support himself or herself, and that he or she is unable to support himself or herself by suitable employment, the court will go on to determine how much support should be paid to the other spouse.  This calculation is very subjective.  The court will consider “all relevant factors,” including six factors listed in the statute:

(a)    The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to such party, and the party’s ability to meet his or her needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party;

(b)    The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and that party’s future earning capacity;

(c)    The standard of living established during the marriage;

(d)    The duration of the marriage;

(e)     The age and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; and

(f)    The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.

As you can see, these factors are broadly defined, and judges have wide discretion to determine the amount of temporary alimony.  Therefore, it is important that you and your lawyer review all financial documents carefully and fully prepare for the temporary orders hearing.

This article is intended to serve as a very brief overview of the temporary alimony process.  You should consult with an attorney to find out how the law will apply to the facts of your case.  Call the Law Office of Kirk Garner today for your free thirty-minute consultation.

How Alimony Works in Colorado, Part 1.

Temporary spousal maintenance is designed to equalize the finances until the divorce is final.

Temporary spousal maintenance is designed to equalize the finances until the divorce is final.

Alimony is a payment of money from one spouse to another for the purpose of financial support or equalization of incomes. In Colorado, alimony is technically called “spousal maintenance.” There are two kinds of spousal maintenance: temporary and permanent. Temporary maintenance is the payment of money from one spouse to the other before the marriage has been dissolved (i.e., before the divorce is final). Permanent maintenance–what most people think of when they hear the term “alimony”–is the payment of money from one former spouse to the other after divorce.

In this article, I will discuss temporary maintenance when the spouses earn a combined annual income of $75,000 or less. In future articles, I will discuss 1) temporary maintenance when combined annual income exceeds $75,000; 2) permanent maintenance; and 3) other aspect of alimony, including modification, termination, and tax treatment.

Historically, the calculation of alimony has been very subjective. Based upon the same facts and income, different judges will regularly calculate and award different amounts of alimony. This creates a lack of certainty and predictability in the courts, and makes it hard for divorcing couples to plan for the future. To make the award of temporary maintenance more uniform, the Colorado legislature developed a guideline for couples whose combined annual income does not exceed $75,000. In these situation, it is a rebuttable presumption that for temporary maintenance (again, alimony paid before the divorce is final), the spouse with the higher income should pay an amount equal to forty percent of his or her income, minus fifty percent of the earnings of the spouse with the lower income.

Example #1. Let’s say that Bob earns an average of $4,000 per month, and Emily earns $2,000 per month. Forty percent of Bob’s income is $1,600, minus fifty percent of Emily’s income, which is $1,000, equal $600. Until the divorce is final, it is presumed that Bob should pay to Emily $600 per month.

Note first of all that this does not entirely equalize the spouses’ income: Bob is left with $3,400 per month, and Emily has $2,600. Secondly, while this formula adjusts income, it does not affect the payment of debts and expenses: the judge will still have to apportion which spouse will pay which monthly expenses. In many cases, the amount of expenses a party has to pay has a greater affect on their discretionary income than the amount of temporary maintenance they have to pay, or that they receive.

Example #2. Paul earn $1,000 per month, Lois earns $5,000. Forty percent of Lois’ income is $2,000, minus fifty percent of Paul’s income, which is $500, equals $1,500.  The presumptive temporary maintenance would have Lois paying Paul $1,500 per month.

Example #3. Sam earns $2,500 per month, Alice earns $2,000. Using the temporary maintenance formula, neither party would have to pay temporary alimony. (Forty percent of 2,500 is 1,000, fifty perent of 2,000 is 1,000. 1,000 – 1,000 = 0.)

It is important to keep in mind that this temporary maintenance formula (for combined income which does not exceed $75,000) creates a rebuttable presumption in favor of the calculated amount. That means that either party may seek a different amount of temporary alimony if they can show that the formula is somehow unfair. If you are able to persuade the Court, then the amount of temporary maintenance may be either higher or lower than the result of the formula.

In the next article, I will discuss how the courts calculate temporary maintenance when the parties have a combined annual income of more than $75,000. In future articles, I will discuss permanent maintenance and other aspects of Colorado’s alimony laws.

As you can see from this article, the law of alimony in Colorado is complicated and subjective. Contact the Law Office of Kirk Garner today to discuss whether you could be entitled to alimony; or find out how much you might have to pay your spouse.