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What I Do For You in Child Support Matters

How Much Child Support Do I Get or Pay

In the most general sense, child support is determined by looking at the parents' incomes, the number of overnights each parent has with the children, and then applying the Colorado Child Support Guidelines.The Guideline can be found in §14-10-115, C.R.S. and with the goal of consistent child support orders for people in similar circumstances to these figures.
  Of course, it's rarely as simple as that.

Incomes may not always be easy to determine.  Bonuses, commissions, pay fluctuations, self-employment, recent or planned job changes, ability to get a job, etc. all affect the income.  Depending on the Parenting Plan involved, the exact number of overnights in a year may not be that easy to determine.  Add to this child care costs, education costs, health care costs, extraordinary expenses, and financial circumstances not involving income, etc., and the amount of child support can vary to a great degree.  The Court can deviate from the Guidelines under certain circumstances.

I will examine all of these with you so that your rights are protected accordingly.  You should not receive less or pay more than you need to under the law.

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Duration of Child Child Support

In Colorado, child support usually lasts until the child reaches 19 years of age (not 18 as is sometimes assumed).  19 is when Colorado has determined the child emancipates by age for child support purposes.  Whether the child goes to college during this time is irrelevant - child support must still be paid.

Child support can be stopped earlier if the child emancipates before 19.  Examples of this include an emancipation order or where the child gets married or enters active military duty.

The duration of child support can be extended if the child is unable to care for him/herself, such as through a mental or physical disability.  I can help you petition the court for this special exception.

Child support can also be extended  until 21 if the child is enrolled in high school.  Interestingly, if the child re-enrolls in high school after 19 years of age after having dropped out earlier, child support can be ordered at the time of re-enrollment - at least until the child turns 21.

Also, although child support is supposed to end when a child turns 19, it becomes tricky when a support order covers more than one child.  This is because no support amount has been calculated for just one child.  If two children are on the support order, you can't just split the amount in half when the first turns 19.  I can file the appropriate motion in advance so that the support gets modified appropriately when that time comes.

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Determining Income

I can help you determine the appropriate incomes for calculating child support.  In Colorado, monthly gross incomes are used for this determination.  And it easy to figure out what these are if the only incomes you both have are based on consistent pay stub amounts without any additional income benefits - However, this is usually not the case.

For instance, bonuses that may occur infrequently need to be taken into account.  I can help you with this since the timing and amount of bonuses is most likely a moving target.

Self-employment income is sometimes a little more difficult to determine and needs to be examined thoroughly.  Money that is withdrawn for personal use, even if it is claimed as a business expense on the tax returns, is considered income.   What is reported on the tax returns does not always reflect reality.  If you are self-employed, you need to make sure that your legitimate business expenses are not being treated as income.

Interest income and capital gains are considered income, as well as employment benefits you might not think of such as automobile allowances or reimbursements.

If a parent is unemployed or underemployed, income can be imputed on them based on what they are reasonably capable of making.  There are many factors, including exceptions, that go into this determination and sometimes a vocational evaluator is needed.  We can discuss the best way to approach this issue.

The list of what can be counted as gross income is very large including such items as spousal maintenance, commissions, dividends, retirement, rents, monetary gifts, etc.  The more you are aware of these, the more protected you are.

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Overnights

Because the number of overnights you have with your child affects the amount of child support that will be ordered, it is usually advised that parenting time be addressed before child support.  Otherwise, there is a risk that child support will be inappropriately used to negotiate parenting time.

The number of overnights will not affect child support if one parent has less than 93 overnights annually.  So, whether one parent has zero or up to 92 overnights, there is no change in child support.

Additionally, if you have multiple children with different parenting time schedules, the total number of overnights for all children divided by the number of children is what counts as the number of overnights for child support purposes.

So, if the Father has child-1 for 90 overnights and child-2 for 100 overnights, the number of overnights for support calculation purposes is 95.

I have seen some Courts use a separate calculation for each child and then add them, resulting in a wildly different support calculation.

For example under the first combined (and correct) approach, the support calculation could result in a support order of $663/month.  Using the same numbers with the separate calculation approach, the support order would be $1,020/month.  You better have an attorney who knows what's going on.  I will make sure you are protected.

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Other Factors

Although there are many factors other than those discussed above that can go into a child support calculation, there are a few more prominent ones.

Child care costs must be factored in, and the party paying for it will get credit on the child support calculation.  We need to figure out the average monthly amount and who is going to pay for it - whether one or both parties to what degree.

In order to qualify, the child care must be for the parent's employment or educational purpose, and the cost cannot exceed what a typical licensed day care provider would charge.  Keep in mind that unless you both agree, no one is going to get credit for finding "free" daycare (e.g. having a grandparent watch the children).

Health care expenditures will also be credited to the parent paying for them.  This includes premiums and out of pocket costs.  There are some technical issues here which I will discuss with you where relevant.

The children's educational and travel expenses can also be taken into account as well as the child's income and other extraordinary expenses depending on the circumstances.

Whether paying or receiving child support is a significant aspect of you and your child's life - one that I take very seriously.

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