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:

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Develop a Divorce Plan to Keep the Goal in Mind

Divorce is a difficult journey. Have a plan for life after divorce.

Divorce is a difficult journey. Have a plan for life after divorce.

Divorce is a difficult journey–don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It doesn’t matter whether the divorce is “uncontested” or “simple;”  it doesn’t matter how good your lawyer is; it doesn’t matter how free from blame from the breakup of the marriage you perceive yourself to be–divorce is always going to be difficult.  Whether you were the spouse who sought the divorce or not.

Sometimes along the journey of divorce, we get caught up in various battles of the day and we lose focus on the ultimate goal. Sometimes it seems the most important thing is the process of ending the marriage:  filing for divorce, gathering documents, mediation, preparing for hearings and trial, and getting it over with!  At other times, the most important thing is getting out of the painful relationship and away from your spouse as quickly as possible.  Others may seek revenge by using the system to punish their spouse for hurtful or abusive behaviors.  The most important thing to focus on, however, is the ultimate goal, the finish line:  life after divorce.

Whether you wanted the divorce or not, whether you feel you have been wronged by your spouse or not, no matter how complex the process may seem, your main focus needs to be your life after divorce.

1.  Make a plan.  Early on in the divorce process–even before separation, if possible–you need to develop a plan of how you are going to live after divorce.  Visualize yourself as single again.

Where will you live? Can you afford to live in the same home you share with your spouse?  If you need to move, what kind of home do you need?  A house?  An apartment?  Will you need to rent for a while or will you be able to buy a home right away?

How will you support yourself financially?  If you are not employed, what kind of job will you seek?  How much income will you need?  Will your spouse be required to pay you child support or alimony to offset your expenses, or will you be required to pay your spouse?  Will your current income, plus or minus child support or alimony, be enough to support you in the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed?

If you have children, how will they been cared for?  Do you foresee the children living with you most of the time, living with the other parent, or do you anticipate sharing custody and parenting time?  If you work, how will the children get to and from school?  Will your work allow you time off to take the children to the doctor?  Will the children need a babysitter?  Are there any family members or friends nearby who would be willing and able to watch the children?  Keep in mind that being a single parenting is usually more challenging than being a married parent.

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