10 Factors That Shape Child Support in Colorado

When you’re going through a divorce, making sure your children are taken care of is a top priority. But, figuring out child support can add stress to an already difficult situation. Understanding how child support works can help you navigate this process with more clarity and confidence.

Many factors influence the amount of child support you are entitled to. These factors are weighed differently in the computation of child support, so exploring each provides valuable insight into how the court thinks. Here are some of the most important factors impacting the child support payment you make or receive.

1.            Monthly Adjusted Gross Income

Monthly adjusted gross income is a critical component in determining child support. This figure reflects each parent’s overall income, including income from all sources, minus certain deductions.

According to Colorado law, the gross income of each parent is determined by including income from any source, with some exceptions. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Income from salaries: Regular earnings from employment.
  • Wages, including tips: Tips declared or imputed to meet minimum wage requirements.
  • Commissions: Earnings based on sales or performance.
  • Payments received as an independent contractor: Income from self-employment.
  • Bonuses: Additional compensation beyond regular earnings.
  • Dividends: Income from investments in stocks.
  • Severance pay: Payments received upon termination of employment.
  • Pensions and retirement benefits: Regular payments from retirement funds.
  • Royalties: Earnings from intellectual property or natural resources.
  • Rents: Income from rental properties.
  • Interest: Earnings from savings and investments.
  • Trust income: Earnings distributed from a trust.
  • Annuities: Regular payments from investment products.
  • Capital gains: Profits from the sale of assets.
  • Self-employment draws: Personal use money deducted as business expenses.
  • Social security benefits: Payments received due to disability or retirement.
  • Workers’ compensation benefits: Payments received due to work-related injuries.
  • Unemployment insurance benefits: Payments received while unemployed.
  • Disability insurance benefits: Payments received due to disability.
  • Insurance funds: Payments replacing wages or providing income in lieu of wages.
  • Monetary gifts and prizes: Excluding certain lottery winnings.
  • Income from partnerships or LLCs: Cash distributions if not a passive investor.
  • Expense reimbursements or in-kind payments: If significant and reduce personal living expenses.
  • Alimony or maintenance received: Adjusted if taxable for federal income tax purposes.
  • Overtime pay: Only if required by the employer.

However, gross income does not include:

  • Child support payments received.
  • Means-tested public assistance benefits: Such as Colorado Works, SSI, food stamps.
  • Income from additional jobs: Resulting in more than full-time employment.
  • Social security benefits received by minor children: Due to the death or disability of a stepparent.
  • Retirement account earnings: Not included unless a distribution is taken.

2.            Potential income

In cases where one spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the Court may impute their income at a level based on their experience and qualifications. Essentially, this is the court ruling that the party is not earning to their full potential.

3.            Each Parent’s Percentage Share of Income

The court compares the financial means of each parent using the percentage share of income. It is found by combining monthly adjusted incomes and dividing each parent’s income by the total to determine the split.

The parent with the larger share of income tends to be the one who pays child support because they have greater financial resources although parenting time and other factors play a role. This is not always the case, however, as there are other factors to consider.

4.            The Basic Child Support Obligation

The basic child support obligation is the amount the state requires parents to pay to support their children. Amounts vary based on combined income and can be found using the Colorado Court Schedule (JDF 1822). This schedule is updated regularly, so be sure to pay attention to any changes.

Because the basic obligation is shared between parents, the number may appear high at first glance, but with adjustments and appropriate sharing, the actual amount ordered could be lower.

5.            Time with Each Parent

Spending time with your children is the most valuable thing you can do for them. When it comes to child support, knowing the proportion of time the child or children spend with each party is significant in two ways.

First, it dictates if physical care is shared. When both parents have at least 93 overnights, the court assumes that some routine expenses will be duplicated. When physical care is shared, the basic obligation increases.

Second, it is a factor in calculating support for time with the other parent. When one parent has more time, they pay less for child support since it is assumed they are already incurring expenses during this time.

6.            Childcare Expenses

Following your divorce, your employment or educational situation could change. When you pay for daycare or babysitters because you’re working or going to school, you can receive credit towards child support. Since the money you spend on childcare directly benefits the children, it could reduce the amount of child support you pay.

7.            Health insurance

Paying for health insurance for your children is another way of directly contributing to their care. The court recognizes this by reducing the obligation of the party who insures the children.

8.            Uninsured medical expenses

Emergencies happen, and when they do, getting your children the care they need is paramount. Since such care is not always covered by insurance, the costs accompanying it can be counted against your child support obligation.

Recently, Colorado lawmakers updated the statute to include any uninsured medical expense for chronic conditions. This means payments towards your children’s chronic ailments can be credited to you in the calculation of child support.

9.            Extraordinary expenses

Children need all sorts of stuff, whether it’s equipment for their favorite sport, fees for field trips, or registration costs for their go-to activity, keeping children active is an important and expensive part of having them. With this in mind, the court may credit the amounts as part of the support obligation.

10.        Fair Share

Everyone likes things to be fair, including the legal system. Depending on the amount of time you spend with your children and your finances, the court calculates this and adjusts your obligation based on it. The Court has the discretion to increase or decrease child support based on any relevant factor.

Conclusion:

Because of the complexities associated with co-parenting, the child support statute is continuously evolving, to keep up with the latest changes check out this article from our special counsel, Jennifer Schaffner here Amendments to the Child Support Statute – What Parents Need to Know.

 

Suzanne Griffiths is the Managing Shareholder and CEO of Griffiths Law PC. She was recognized by the Best Lawyers in America© 2019-2024 for family law and was selected to Colorado Superlawyers from 2005-2024. She was also recognized in 5280 magazines for Top Lawyer in Family Law in Denver from 2016-2024.

Christopher Griffiths is CFO and Shareholder at Griffiths Law PC and focuses his practice on complex civil litigation and family law matters. His civil litigation practice focuses on construction, insurance, real estate, commercial, and business disputes. His family law practice focuses on divorce and related domestic relations matters.