If you have children, your number one priority as a parent is keeping them happy, healthy and safe.
But now that you're facing a divorce, how do you make sure they get the financial support they need in order to thrive?
And there's a lot more to child support in Colorado than you might think.
What is the purpose of Child Support?
Some divorcing couples with kids think the purpose of child support is to ensure that the financial needs of their children are being met. And while that is a true statement, it's only partially correct.
Yes, child support will certainly help satisfy the children's monetary needs.
But child support is about more than just money.
Divorce is tough on children. And the conflict and stress can really take a toll on them. So in addition to providing them financial support, child support also provides children with emotional support.
Child support shows your kids you still love them and care about their well-being.
A few things to know about the difficulties in determining Colorado child support:
- While there is a child support guideline, the inputs to the guideline are difficult to determine, it doesn't include all the expenses associated with raising a child and it isn't applicable in all situations;
- This topic has less to do with laws and more to do with money, negotiation and doing what’s best for your kids;
- There is more than meets the eye on this issue and in the majority of cases, this subject is much too complex to try to resolve on your own.
That's why you will get the best result by mediating with us.
"Most parents think the child support guidelines output a specific dollar amount and that’s that. But the reality is the guidelines are just a starting point for negotiations.
Plus there are a lot of expenses not covered by the basic child support amount.
That's why the best way to come to a fair agreement and ensure your children get the financial support they need is to work with an experienced mediator like me.”
The child support guideline in Colorado isn't a simple calculation.
Believe it or not, there was a time when child support guidelines weren’t in use. Instead, child support awards were left to judges to decide. Resulting in child support amounts that varied greatly from case to case.
Even if those cases were all heard by the same judge!
Flash forward to today and per an edict from the Federal government, you will find all 50 states now have some kind of guideline to determine a basic child support amount, including of course, Colorado.
In the case of The Centennial State, something called the “income shares” model is used to answer the question, "How much is child support in Colorado?" The thinking being that once a couple is divorced, their children are entitled to receive financial support from both parents.
So in effect, you and your spouse will both pay child support. But only one of you will write a check to the other.
How the heck does that work?!
Determining child support in Colorado can be quite complex.
Let’s take a closer look at how child support is calculated in Colorado.
Like most child support guidelines that use the income shares model, you and your spouse would first need to determine what each of your incomes are. But Colorado has an interesting way of defining income.
In Colorado, gross income for the purpose of child support is actually gross income minus:
- Maintenance (that’s right – you’d have to figure out maintenance - aka alimony - before you can calculate child support);
- Work-related child care costs;
- Education-related child care costs;
- Health insurance premium costs (your children’s portion only);
- Extraordinary medical expenses for your kids not covered by insurance;
- Extraordinary expenses agreed to by you and your spouse;
- And any other extraordinary adjustments the two of you agree on.
And if you or your soon to be ex isn't working, Colorado can "impute" income to you for the purposes of calculating Colorado child support.
Meaning based on your work history, education level, etc. the state can assume you're earning a certain amount of income for the purposes of calculating child support.
Even if you're not actually earning that income!
Oh, and you need to determine your parenting plan.
And there are two different methodologies used in Colorado child support cases and the methodology you must use depends on your timesharing arrangement and how many nights the children spend with each of you.
OK, so let’s say you’ve managed to get this all figured out and you finally have a child support number in mind.
Well guess what?
There is a “paying parent’s adjustment” that can be made to the support award at the very end.
That’s right – even after all of that, there can still be yet one more adjustment to the child support amount.
What’s in and what’s out of the Colorado Child Support Guidelines is open to interpretation.
Just when you thought you had child support all figured out comes the most challenging part: extraordinary expenses.
As you learned above, one of the adjustments to gross income is extraordinary expenses agreed to by you and your spouse.
In our experience, agreeing on what constitutes an extraordinary expense, and how to pay for them, are two of the most difficult parts of the Colorado child support conversation.
First you have to agree on what is an extraordinary expense. Sure there is some guidance given by the state of Colorado, but it isn't as clear as you might think.
Take for example a 2019 ruling on "mandatory school fees." As more children attend charter schools, or incur expenses to attend public schools, Colorado now considers these extraordinary expenses.
These items include things like lab fees, special books or other materials needed for class, and even technology-related fees for schools that may issue students laptops or tablets.
But guess what?
School uniforms are not considered a mandatory school fee by the state of Colorado.
Even if your child has no choice but to wear a uniform to school? How do you handle that?
Then there's the issue of how to pay for them.
One way is to include them in your Colorado child support calculation as you read above. But what if the extraordinary expenses change?
Can you imagine a 3 year-old with a cell phone, data plan, or car insurance. I hope not! But as a teenager, those types of expenses would make perfect sense. So do you include them now? Wait until later to discuss them? Or what?
Starting to see why determining child support is not as simple as using some free Colorado child support calculator you may have found on the Internet?
There are also other items to discuss regarding child support in Colorado.
In addition to the basic and extraordinary costs associated with having a child, you and your spouse will also need to discuss and come to agreement on:
- Who deducts the children on their taxes;
- Whether you have enough life insurance to cover the children’s expenses including when they go off to college;
- How college will be paid for;
- The duration child support is paid (because for some children, it may extend beyond the normal age of emancipation);
Making the list of what isn’t addressed by the guidelines longer and longer…
The child support guidelines in Colorado aren’t applicable in all situations.
In order for the child support guideline to work reasonably well, your gross income and that of your spouse must be predictable from month-to-month and year-to-year.
So if one or both of you earn part of your compensation from bonuses, commissions or stock options, the guidelines simply won’t work.
There’s also an upper income limit of $360,000 in 2019.
Meaning if you and your spouse collectively earn more than the upper income limit in that calendar year, the guidelines won’t work as-is.
And that’s just another example of why it’s called a child support guideline and not a formula.
In either case, you’ll have no choice but to skip the guidelines and negotiate instead.
Which is not always so easy to do.
When the law gets involved, it’s a problem.
In a litigated divorce, a judge determines child support.
Scary, isn't it?
A complete stranger dictating the terms of what the child support amount will be for your kids! And there's a good chance neither you nor your spouse will wind up with something you think is fair or that appropriately meets the needs of your children.
That’s why it’s better to negotiate this issue and that’s exactly what mediation is all about.
In mediation, you get to decide - and come to an agreement that puts your children first and you both agree is fair, instead of letting a stranger decide for you.
You’ll get the best result by mediating with us.
Child support issues will vary based on your situation and circumstances.
And as you’ve learned, there is more than meets the eye on this topic. So don't risk putting your children's financial future in jeopardy by trying to resolve child support on your own.
It’s better to mediate your divorce with us instead.
Using our extensive financial knowledge into the complex matters of child support, we’ll help you and your spouse determine an amount that accurately reflects your lives as parents as well as the specialized needs of your children.
One that covers all regular, extraordinary and future expenses.
- We’ll talk about what it will take to make sure your kids get what they need and deserve. Not just what the formula says you have to pay so they can “get by.”
- We'll help you discuss and come to agreements on how extraordinary expenses will be handled both now and in the future.
- And help you negotiate any issues of disagreement so you can create an agreement you both find fair and equitable regarding the support of your children.
- We’ll also make sure your agreement improves cash flow, minimizes tax issues and avoids penalties whenever possible.
Your children are unique and your child support agreement should reflect that, too.
Equitable Mediation can help you prevent your children from becoming economic victims of your Colorado divorce.
Why be forced to accept a settlement created by an attorney or judge when you can have a direct say in creating an agreement that works for your children now and into the future instead?
Don’t let your children become the economic victims of your divorce. And don't rely on the State of Colorado to decide what's best for your children.
If you want to make decisions as parents, and do what’s best for your kids, mediate your divorce with Equitable Mediation.
If you and your spouse have both agreed to divorce and want to mediate, take the next step and book an initial meeting for the two of you.
Early in the process?
Get our Free eBook to learn about the benefits of mediating your divorce.
Before you go out and hire a divorce lawyer, learn why you owe it to yourself and your children to mediate instead.
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