Child support is essentially based on three big factors – the number of children of the relationship, the gross income of the parents, and the overnight (custody) schedule for the child. Mitigating factors include payment of the child’s health insurance, child care costs, extraordinary medical expenses for the child, and financial responsibility for other children.

Income is relatively easy to determine if both parties are salaried W2 employees, but income determination becomes more difficult if a parent has an alternative income arrangement: for example, a parent is self-employed, if income fluctuates over months and years, if a parent works overtime hours, or if a parent receives trust income from a family trust. If a parent is self-employed and processes their car payment, cell phone bill, health insurance through their business as tax write-offs, those benefits are added back in for purposes of determining income for child support. There are countless situations in which a parent’s income becomes a negotiating tool.

The custody schedule is calculated using overnights. For instance, assume Parent A has overnights with the minor child every other weekend (Friday through Sunday) for 48 overnights a year, plus four additional weeks of overnights (holidays, spring break, and summer travel) for 28 more overnights, bringing the total to 76 overnights a year. Parent B then is credited with 289 overnights a year (365-76 = 289).

Or what if a parent is suddenly unemployed? Party A, a stay at home parent, files for divorce and Party B (the primary income earner in the family) decides he or she does not want to be a real estate developer anymore and instead begins working as a beginner yoga instructor. This is called “voluntarily underemployed”, and the law allows the court to impute income of what the parent is capable of earning. This is a specialized area of the law and involves many factors for the court to consider.

Maintenance (alimony) is also considered income for purposes of calculating child support.

The court uses a specific formula and set guidelines for determining child support and then the court retains the discretion to deviate (either up or down) from that amount to whatever the court deems to be “in the best interest of the child.”

In scenario 1, assume that both parents have the same salary of $60,000 per year, Parent B pays $100 per month for the child’s health care, neither parent is responsible for any other children, and the child is school age so there is no child care involved. The child support guidelines indicate that child support should be set at $658/month, from Party A to Party B.

For scenario 2, assume that everything from scenario 1 is the same except Party A makes $120,000 per year. The child support guidelines indicate that child support should be set at $1,123 per month, from Party A to Party B.

For scenario 3, assume that everything from scenario 1 is the same except Party A makes $60,000 per year and Party B makes $120,000 per year. The child support guidelines indicate that child support should be set at $561 per month, from Party A to Party B.

For scenario 4, assume the same overnight share (Party A has 76 overnights/Party B has 289 overnights) Party A makes $120,000 per year and pays Party B $3,000 per month in maintenance (alimony), and Party B makes $60,000 per year. Parent B pays $100 per month for the child’s health care, neither parent is responsible for any other children, and the child is school age so there is no child care involved The child support guidelines indicate that child support should be set at $702 per month, from Party A to Party B.

The State of Colorado always retains jurisdiction (power) to adjudicate child support in the best interests of the child. This means that parents cannot agree to waive child support and the court always has the final say.

While child support may seem relatively easy at first, there are many factors to consider and an attorney can help you achieve the best result. To schedule an initial consult call 970-470-2338 or email inof@jessicawoodslaw.com.

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