Both parents share a duty of support owed to the children, regardless if one or neither is ordered to pay “child support” to the other.
Child support is the financial obligation that runs to the children, but is paid by one parent to the other pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines at C.R.S. 14-10-115. The purpose of the payment is to aid in the care of the child, such as to feed, clothe, and house the child. This is understood in the State of Colorado as a right of the child, even when one parent does not have physical or legal custody. The obligation ends when the child is legally emancipated (generally at the age of 19). The goal is to provide child support based on the parties’ combined adjusted gross incomes, the number of overnights each shares with the child, and the other expenses included under the Guidelines. The total support obligation is then allocated between the parties so as to ensure that the child has in both homes a similar level of support to that which would be enjoyed had the child remained in an intact household.
Child support is not intended to cover every expense related to having a child; rather, it is there to provide basic support for a healthy upbringing and the parents are expected to share the additional incidental costs of raising children. Expenses such as school fees, extracurricular activities, and other such costs are—absent agreement otherwise—borne by the parent incurring those fees.
How Child Support is Calculated
In Applying The Child Support Guidelines, The Court Considers:
- The financial resources of the child
- The financial resources of the parents
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the household had remained intact
- The physical and emotional conditions and educational needs of the child
- The financial resources, needs, and obligations of parents
The court may certainly order an amount of support to be paid by one parent to the other as determined to be reasonable under the circumstances.
The process for calculating child support involves calculating the respective adjusted gross incomes of each parent, and then applying it to a Basic Child Support Worksheet, either Worksheet A or Worksheet B (differing on the basis of the parents’ share of parenting time). The court may deviate from this formula with good cause.
Claims that a parent cannot afford the Guidelines child support because s/he has insufficient disposable income after paying for expenses, may not justify a deviation. Circumstances such as serious illness, medical expenses or other similar situations that are often beyond the control of the paying-parent may, however, create an exception that the court would consider.
Basic factors that are considered to determine child support are: how many overnights each parent has with the child, each parent’s gross income, which parent pays for the child’s portion of the health insurance, if there are any work or education related day care costs, any income earned by the child, and whether there are any extraordinary expenses.
Modifying Child Support
Child support may be modified any time there is a 10% continuing change (up or down) in the child support obligation. However, the court does not automatically review the support obligation, so a party believing such a change to have occurred would have to affirmatively seek modification to see the amount of support change.
Any agreed upon modification needs to be in writing, signed by both parties and submitted to the court for approval, as it is the child’s right to child support and the court must review it. Modifications may also be indicated if one child becomes an adult or becomes emancipated and there is still an obligation existing for other children.