Colorado family law: an introduction to Colorado child support

Colorado child support law includes rebuttable guidelines and is extremely complex

Child support is the monthly payment of money from one parent to the other to assist in caring for their children when the parents do not live together. In Colorado, child support may be ordered by the court in divorce, legal separation or an action for allocation of parental responsibilities by an unmarried parent.

Legal counsel important

Colorado law governing child support is extremely complicated and anyone facing the issue in the Centennial State should consult an experienced family lawyer for guidance and representation. A skilled child support attorney can assist in negotiation of a child support agreement, often as part of an overall marital settlement agreement, or can advocate for a parent in court if necessary.

Colorado child support guidelines

In Colorado, child support is usually determined by the application of child support guidelines set by statute. Basically, the guideline formula combines the monthly gross incomes of both parents (from $1,100 to $30,000) and plugs that combined income figure into a grid according to the number of children being supported to yield a total monthly child support figure that would be appropriate if the family were living together intact.

That figure is then divided proportionately by the parents' adjusted gross incomes as defined by state law. The proportionate amounts are further plugged in to official worksheets that take into account how much time the child or children will spend at each parents' home to come up with the appropriate amount of any child support owed by one parent to the other.

It is not even as simple as that, however, because further adjustments are required for several other expenses like children's medical insurance coverage, child care, extraordinary medical or educational costs, support responsibility for other children and more.

Also, the determination of parental gross income can itself be a complicated legal question. Colorado law makes a very broad, inclusive sweep in what counts toward gross income.

Earnings from a second job or from overtime pay, however, can require a complex legal analysis to determine whether they are included in gross income for child support purposes or whether they might require an adjustment outside the guidelines. Other complications to the determination of child support grow from subsequent remarriages, income of the child him or herself and more.

If a judge determines that a parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, the judge may impute earnings to that parent for child support calculation purposes.

Deviation from guideline amount

The Colorado child support statute says that the guideline amount is a "rebuttable presumption" of the appropriate amount in a given family. The court may deviate from the guidelines if their application would be "inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate." The court may consider any relevant factor making a deviation, but the statute suggests some like extraordinary parental medical expenses, gross income disparity and more. If the judge deviates from the guidelines, he or she must make specific findings justifying the departure.

Approval of child support stipulation

While parents may be able to negotiate a child support agreement, the judge in the divorce or other legal matter must still approve that agreement based on the guidelines and state law.

This article barely scratches the surface of the child support laws in Colorado.Parents facing child support issues should seek the advice of an experienced Colorado lawyer to understand the likely ramifications of Colorado law on future support payments.

Keywords: Colorado, child support, divorce, parent, guidelines, income