Divorce affects children to varying degrees, but one thing they shouldn't have to worry about is how they'll be cared for. And that's what child support is all about.
In Colorado, the legislature has developed statewide guidelines for calculating child support. Using a mathematical formula, these guidelines take into consideration several factors: custody arrangements, incomes of both parents, and, of course, the parenting plan that has been worked out through the divorce attorney or a family lawyer.
Courts will not stray far from the state guidelines unless there are unusual circumstances – for example, a child with severe disabilities who requires specialized care, or a huge difference between the incomes of the two parents.
Let’s take a look at the three basic factors that are used to calculate child support payments.
The Gross Income of Each Parent
While this may seem simple at first glance, it may not be. Parents who are both full-time employees have tax records to verify their incomes. Added to that are bonuses (if any), but not overtime payments.
Income can become a “sticky” issue when one parent is self-employed. Also taken into account are child support payments a parent may already be making to a child from a previous marriage or relationship. The courts will take into account big differences in parents’ incomes. Here are a couple of typical examples:
Suppose the custodial parent (the one who has the child more than 50% of the time) is within a high-income range. The non-custodial parent is on a low fixed income, perhaps due to disability. Courts will generally, according to state guidelines, reduce the non-custodial payment amounts accordingly.
If the non-custodial parent is unemployed at the time of the proceedings, the court will often determine a projected income amount if that parent were to be employed and assign a payment based upon that.
Typically, a Denver child custody attorney can help you devise and file a parenting plan with the court. This plan details how many nights minor children will spend with each parent, and that number will impact payment amounts. A parent who has the children 3-4 nights a week will pay less than one who has them for 1-2 nights.
Unusual or Ongoing Expenses
There are often ongoing expenses for children. As mentioned before, a child may have a disability that requires costly care; or a child may be involved in extracurricular activities that involve ongoing fees, equipment purchases, etc. There is also the matter of health insurance and which parent is assuming responsibility for that.
The best situation is that payments for these expenses are worked out in a parenting plan with a family or child custody lawyer and presented to the court. Then, the court can modify child support payments based upon which parent is assuming those financial responsibilities.
Modifications to Child Support Payments
Circumstances do change. At any time, either parent can petition the court for modifications in payments.
An experienced Brighton family law attorney can help you calculate the child support payments you may owe. It’s a good idea to have this in mind so you can understand what the court will likely determine. Our firm can provide this help and advice – contact us today for consultation.