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Child Support

Colorado Child Support

Colorado utilizes a guideline of basic support obligations to calculate a parent’s child support obligation to the other parent. The basic support obligation can be increased for medical expenses, extra-ordinary expenses, and child care costs. Although this is calculation, each situation is different and we would encourage you to consult with a family law attorney to determine specific support issues that could impact a child support determination.

Calculating the Basic Child Support Obligation

When calculating a child support obligation, the court will look at the adjusted gross income of each parent. Adjusted gross income is income before taxes minus any child support payments made for another child, maintenance paid by a parent to another spouse.

Gross Income Sources

Gross income includes income from any source expect those noted below. This includes income from: salaries, wages, tips received (whether or not reported to the IRS), commissions, payments received as an independent contractor for labor or services, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions and retirement benefits, royalties, rents, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, any moneys drawn by a self-employed person , social security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, monetary gifts, insurance funds received in lieu of wages, income from general partnerships, limited partnerships, closely held corporations and/or limited liability companies, unless the parent is a passive investor, some expense reimbursements from employer, alimony or maintenance received, and overtime pay, if overtime is required by the employer as a condition of employment.

Gross income typically does not include any benefits received from the state or federal government based on need, child support payments received, income from a second job, social security benefits received by the children, and earnings or gains on a retirement account.


[1] Note for self-employed or small business owners, for the purposes of gross income calculation the court will commonly added back as income any expenses not directly attributed to the normal operation of a business.  Taxes will be considered but legal IRS deductions may not be allowable for a support calculation.

Voluntarily unemployed or underemployed

If a parent is not working, working part-time or is working at a lower wage by choice, the court will assign income based on potential income and not actual income received. For example, if a parent chooses to work at a child’s school but he or she has previously worked as a Certified Public Accountant for a number of years and earned a certain salary, the court could use the CPA salary rather than at a reduced amount actually received.

Shared custody of children

The next factor to consider in a child support award is the amount of time the child spends with each parent. If one parent has the child for less than 92 overnights per year, the court will not consider the percentage of time the child spends with each parent when calculating a child support obligation.

If there is shared time, the basic child support amount is allocated to each parent based on the percentages of overnights with the parent.

Health Care and Extra-Ordinary Expenses

Health care cost and other expenses may be added to the basic support obligation. The amounts of the cost of health insurance would be split between the parents in a pro-rata share of total expenses.

Changes From Basic Child Support Obligations

The court may at times deviate from the basic child support obligation if it finds it would be inequitable, unjust or inappropriate to following the child support guidelines. See Colorado Revised Statute §14-115-(8)(e). Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to show the court that deviation from the guidelines is necessary based on evidence that you provide to the court.

Modification of Previous Child Support Orders

The court may modify by either increasing or decreasing a child support award. In order to qualify for a modification of child support you must show a continuing and substantial change in circumstances that results in a ten percent or more increase or decrease in the current award.

A job loss or unemployment that is for a brief period of time may not qualify for a continual or substantial change in circumstances even know earnings may be temporarily reduced.

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