Colorado Child Support
Child support is for the benefit of the child. This does not mean that the parent receiving the child support payment must show that the money was used for the child. Often times it may be frustrating to see payments being applied to items that are not going for the benefit of the child. Even the best lawyer will not be able to make a parent spend a child support payment in a certain way. Divorce attorneys can help break down the costs of raising a child and ensure the costs are allocated correctly; but cannot go further to require specific expenditures.
Colorado and Denver 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 health insurance, extra-ordinary expenses, and child care costs. Although this is a presumptive calculation, each situation is different and we would encourage you to consult with a lawyer in your Denver metro area to determine specific issues that could impact a child support determination.
Calculating the Basic Child Support Obligation
When calculating a child support obligation, the court in Denver and surrounding areas 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 and/or maintenance paid by a parent to another spouse. Divorce attorneys must pay close attention to what is alleged to be the income of both parties because reporting to little income may not provide enough support for the child and over inflating income could result in a windfall.
Gross Income Sources
A lawyer can help determine gross income. It generally includes income from any source expect those noted below. Basically, it would be money received 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.
You do not generally include any benefits received from 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. The reason that income from a second job is not included is because it may be used by a party to get ahead on bills and provide more stability for the child so be sure to look at the source of the income and if there is any questions on if it would or would not count as gross income consult a divorce attorney.
 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. In Denver and the whole of Colorado the purpose of child support is to benefit the child.
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. It will be presumed that the parent who has the child more is spending more on the child’s needs.
If there is shared time, the basic child support amount is allocated to each parent based on the percentages of overnights with the parent. For example, if a child lives in Denver with father and Lakewood with mother and the time is equally divided, the costs of housing expenses will be considered for both residences. There is no adjustment for living in a higher cost city or area of Denver.
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. A lawyer would be able to review the options and potential impact of a support obligation to the facts of your case.
Modification of Previous Child Support Orders
The court may modify by either increasing or decreasing a child support award. In Denver, Adams and Jefferson counties, this modification process would most likely require mediation prior to a hearing. 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. Divorce attorneys often receive questions as to if a remarriage or loss of job could be a triggering event. There are no hard and fast rules, it would depend on the industry and ability of the person to obtain suitable employment in their field. If the position or industry had been completely eliminated, it could impact a future award. Generally a job loss alone is not enough to trigger a modification and the issue should be reviewed with your lawyer before moving forward.