Colorado Child Support

Child Support Calculations:  Child support in Colorado is calculated using a formula based upon information provided on a worksheet.  The worksheet is posted on the Colorado Court website, support guidelines.  Although there are a number of factors that affect the support calculation, basic information needed for most cases include:  the amount of the monthly gross income of the parents, the number of children, work-related childcare costs, health insurance expenses and number of overnights the children are with each parent during the year.  Determining child support can be complicated and there are a number of exceptions, conditions and qualifications to the general rules described below.  The statute containing the Colorado Child Support Guidelines is C.R.S. § 14-10-115.  The Guidelines are based upon the report and recommendations of the Colorado Child Support Commission.  Martin Law Firm provides legal assistance in determining appropriate levels of child support, and in modifying, adjusting and litigating child support in the Colorado Family Courts.

Monthly Gross Income:  Usually, only the income of the parents of the child is counted – not the income of stepparents, boyfriends, girlfriends, or other persons who do not have a legal responsibility for the child.  Also, usually only the income from the regular, full-time job is counted and not the second, part-time or occasional side job.  Gross income is the before-tax and deductions income.  Full-time generally means pay from a 40-hour workweek – overtime pay, if it is voluntary, is not counted.  The full-time income for child support purposes must be determined on a monthly basis: receiving a paycheck every other week does not mean that two paychecks are the same as one month, rather the monthly income is found by multiplying the bi-weekly pay times 26 and then dividing by 12.

Number of Children:  Only the children of the relationship for whom there is a parental responsibility to support are included in the worksheet.  Children from other relationships are not included in the support calculation – the obligation to support these children, however, may result in a downward adjustment to the monthly gross income figure used to calculate child support.

Work-Related Childcare:  The actual cost for babysitting, daycare, and before or after-school care for the children included in the child support calculations is listed as an expense if the cost is incurred so the parent can go to work.  The amount of the childcare must be reasonable, and it must be necessary.  This is typically a major expense item in support calculations and the formula allocates it between the parents in direct proportion to their percentage share of the total monthly gross income for both parents.

Health Insurance:  This expense is included in the worksheet to calculate support and is allocated between the parents similar to work-related childcare.  Health insurance includes medical, dental and vision insurance, but only the amount that is attributable to the children for whom support is being calculated.  If the amount attributable to the children is not readily known (rate sheets typically give the amount for employee only, employee plus child, or family coverage and determining the cost increase for the child or children is possible), then take the total monthly cost and divide by the number of persons covered and the multiply the average cost per person by the number of children included in the support calculation.  Expenses that are not covered by insurance, including co-pays and deductibles, unless the parents agree otherwise, are initially paid by the parent receiving the child support, up to $250 each year for each child, and then split between the parents in proportion to their percentage share of the combined monthly gross income.

Number of Overnights:  Colorado has two different support worksheets:  Worksheet A is used where one of the parents has the children for less than 93 overnights each year; Worksheet B is used where both parents have the children 93 overnights or more each year. Generally speaking, the amount of monthly child support is less when a Worksheet B is used – the idea is that the parents are sharing the care of their children and are actually incurring more expense in directly supporting their children than in providing support for the other parent to meet basic needs.

Income Tax Dependency Exemptions:  Colorado law provides for the income tax exemption (not the child care credit) to be allocated between the parents, so long as child support payment is current and the parent will actually benefit from taking the exemption (less taxes).  Typically, the exemption is divided between the parents in proportion to their percentage share of the combined monthly gross income.  IRS Form 8332 (PDF) may be used to permit the other parent to use the dependency exemption for a particular tax year.

Note:  The Income Tax Dependency Exemption only applies to income tax returns for tax year 2017 and prior.  The dependency exemption for 2018 and later years was repealed by Section 1003 of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R.1.

The information provided above is general in nature, is not intended as legal advice for your particular situation and should not be relied upon without first consulting with legal counsel.