Child custody and child support often become contentious issues in divorce proceedings. However, remember that the goal of child support aims to provide the child with the best possible outcome that least affects their lives. Understanding these support calculations can help you in calculating the child support that you’ll pay or receive after a divorce.
The Principle Behind Child Support
Colorado’s Child Support Guidelines exist to ensure that the child receives a fair share of each parent’s resources and financial income. The expectation is that children should receive adequate financial and emotional support from both parents and that this support continues even after the parents split.
Generally, child support consists of money, often given to the parent who has custody of the child. However, in some instances, the parent with primary custody may have to pay the other parent, such as in the case of large income inequalities. The child support order seeks to ensure that both parents share the costs for education, childcare, special needs, and any other costs associated with raising a child.
Spouses can develop their own child support solutions during a collaborative, uncontested, or mediated divorce, but the court retains the final say in the amount of child support awarded. In some instances, if you deviate too much from the Child Support Guidelines, the court may not approve your proposal, even if both parties have already agreed to it.
Guidelines for Child Support Calculations
Colorado uses the income shares method when calculating child support and follows a set of guidelines that examines several factors, including:
- The child’s physical and emotional needs
- The child’s standard of living pre-divorce
- The financial resources of both the custodial and non-custodial parent, such as gross income before taxes
- The child’s existing expenses and income (if any)
- The number of nights the child spends with each parent
- Any existing child support orders or alimony
The basic formula for the amount of child support awarded comes in around 20% of both parents’ gross combined income for one child, with additional children adding an extra 10% onto that figure. The court also considers parenting time percentages to decide who pays and who receives the child support.
In general, parents who have a higher income percentage than the parenting time percentage pay the child support, while the parent who has a higher parenting time percentage than the income share will receive the money. However, when the two parents have roughly equal parenting time and income share, other factors come into consideration.
Child support calculations can become incredibly complex, so most family law firms and judges have calculators that provide a presumptive amount. This presumptive amount is not a guarantee of the amount of child support, and the family court judge needs to approve the order. However, in clear-cut cases, the judge tends to not deviate from the presumptive amount, making it a good indicator of the final child support order.
How Long Does a Child Support Order Last?
Most child support orders last until the child turns 19 years old but can extend to 21 if the child is still in high school. If the child has physical or mental disabilities that impede their ability to support themselves, the child support order can extend into adulthood.
In these cases, parents should start by working out how to continue to support their child indefinitely. Mediation provides a good starting point, but the decision may have to go to litigation to achieve the best results for the child.
The amount of child support awarded is not set in stone and can change due to improved or worsening financial circumstances. For instance, if one parent loses their job, they can apply for a new calculation more in line with their current financial situation and ability to provide for the child.
Work With a Denver Divorce Attorney When Calculating Child Support
Child support negotiations can often devolve into financial in-fighting between parents. Even amicable separations can become heated if the spouses think they’re being taken advantage of, to the detriment of everyone involved.
The goal of any child support order must remain centered on protecting the child’s interests. However, the process of setting the amount of child support awarded can become complex, especially in cases of high incomes or multiple income sources. That’s why you need to have a dedicated Denver family law attorney on your side. We provide guidance and advocacy to find a mutually beneficial solution whenever possible and will fight for your rights if the process becomes hostile.
To find out more about calculating child support, reach out to Littman Family Law at (303) 832-4200 today!