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What factors are used to determine child support in Colorado?

Child support payments in Colorado take into account each parent’s gross income, the parenting time schedule and factors such a special childcare expenses.

For many parents who are getting divorced in Boulder, providing financially for their children after the separation can be a significant source of concern. As a result, many parents may worry about the amount of child support that they will receive or be required to pay after the divorce. This makes it beneficial for most parents in Colorado to understand how these payments are calculated under state law.

Real and potential income

In Colorado, child support payments are determined based on the gross income of both parents. The Colorado Child Support Guideline stipulates what amount of a divorced couple's total income should go to support their child. This obligation is then divided between both parents in proportion to their income. The amount that is assigned to the non-custodial parent represents the child support payment.

The Colorado Child Support Guideline also allows for calculations based on "potential income" if a parent is deliberately underemployed or not working. This figure reflects the parent's education, employability and earnings history, among other factors. However, child support cannot be calculated using "potential income" if a parent's earnings are reduced because the parent is caring for the couple's young child, incapacitated or facing long-term incarceration.

Parenting time arrangement

The parenting time schedule that a family observes also influences the non-custodial parent's child support obligations, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services. Generally, parents who have more overnight visits with their children pay a reduced amount of child support. Under the state's guidelines, support amounts are adjusted when a non-custodial parent has more than 92 or 273 overnight visits with a child in one year.

Reasons for adjustments

Several other factors may justify adjustments to the child support amount calculated under Colorado's official guidelines. These variables include:

  • A paying parent's prior financial obligations. The mandatory child support payment may be adjusted downward if a parent already pays alimony, child support or other costs relating to the care of his or her other dependents.
  • An unusually high or low amount of gross income. The state guideline only applies to divorced spouses with a combined gross annual income that falls between $13,200 and $360,000. In other cases, child support is determined based on other guidelines or a family law judge's ruling.
  • Extraordinary childcare-related expenses. A child support payment may also be increased if a child's expenses, including medical and educational costs, are unusually high.

Child support payments may additionally be adjusted based on a child's health insurance expenses.

Handling child support concerns

Even though Colorado uses fixed guidelines to determine child support, calculating this obligation correctly and securing any necessary adjustments can be challenging. As a result, divorcing parents may benefit from speaking to an attorney who has experience in this area of law. An attorney may be able to help a parent accurately document his or her circumstances and seek an appropriate amount of child support.