The obligation to pay child support in Colorado is based on the idea that both parents owe a financial responsibility to their child and the obligation to pay child support is the right of the child, NOT the right of the parent receiving child support. Colorado has developed guidelines which provide the presumptive child support obligation owed in most cases.
The goal of the guidelines is to provide child support based on the parties combined adjusted gross income and allocate child support in the amount of support that the child would have been given had he lived in an intact household.
Child support is not intended to cover every and all expenses related to having a child, rather it is intended to provide basic support for a healthy upbringing and the parents are expected to share the additional incidental costs of raising children as those expenses arise. Expenses such as school fees, extracurricular activities, orthodontic bills and similar costs are not covered by basic child support and are divided between parents outside of the child support obligation.
In determining the amount of child support to order, the court considers all relevant factors, including:
- (I) The financial resources of the child;
- (II) The financial resources of the custodial parent;
- (III) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
- (IV) The physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs; and
- (V) The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.
Although there is a set formula for determining child support the court can deviate from this formula with good cause. However, a parent’s obligation to pay child support is paramount to most other financial responsibilities and only special circumstances warrant exceptions. Claims that a parent cannot afford the guideline child support because they have too many credit card bills or not enough disposable income after paying for their expenses are not warranted exceptions. Circumstances such as serious illness, medical expenses or other similar situations that are often beyond the control of the obligor are exception that the court will consider.
The basic factors that are considered to determine child support are: how many overnights each parent has with the child, each parent’s gross income, who pays for health insurance and how much the child’s portion is, if there are any work or education related day care costs, any income earned by the child, as well as any extraordinary expenses.
People often ask if they can just waive child support. A waiver of child support is not binding on the Court and it has been deemed against public policy to enforce a waiver of child support. Child support is for the benefit of the child and while a parent can agree not to pursue child support or agree to a reduction in support this agreement is not permanent and can be modified. So even if you have a written agreement that says one parent will not seek support from the other parent, this is unenforceable by the Court.
Child support can be modified at any time if there is a 10% change (up or down) in the child support obligation. However, the court does not automatically review the support amount so it is the parties’ responsibility to seek a modification if they believe one is appropriate. Any agreed upon modification needs to be done in writing, signed by both parties and submitted to the court.
Child support is ordered by the Court and, in cases of divorce, is generally made retroactive to the date in which divorce was filed. In cases where the parents were never married the child support obligation can go back to when an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities action is filed or back to the date of birth if an action to establish paternity is filed.
The obligation to support a child ends when the child turns 19 or is otherwise determined to be emancipated. Child support will automatically terminate when a child turns 19, however if you have other children for which support is owed and they are not emancipated you will need to modify the existing obligation for those children to reflect that support is now paid for one less child.