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Child Support and Child Support Modification

Child support is a financial obligation one parent pays to the other parent to support his or her child in Colorado. This money is meant to help cover the child’s basic living expenses and other costs he or she may have. This award plays a part in your financial picture and affects your child as well, so learning more about it and its modification process will help you stay as informed as possible.

Support Determination and Parental Responsibilities

In this state, the court uses a statewide formula to calculate the amount. It generally relies on the combined pre-tax incomes of both parents, which are used to set the minimum child support amount. This amount is then divided between both parents based on incomes and other factors, particularly the parenting time each parent has with the child. Known as “parental responsibilities” in Colorado rather than “custody”, the parent the child is with more tends to have a lesser percentage of the child support assigned to him or her. This is because the child spends more time with that parent, so it’s assumed that parent will also spend more money on him or her. If, for example, a child primarily lives with one parent, it’s likely that is the parent who will spend more on shelter, food and other items for the child. Other things that may impact child support calculation include whether a parent is paying support for another child already and how much each parent is responsible for in terms of other expenses, such as education, health insurance and child care.

Naturally, when a child has extraordinary expenses, such as private school tuition or high medical costs, or a high income is involved, a child support case can get complicated. A parent who is covering more of the extraordinary expenses, for example, may have a reduced support obligation as a result. If your case involves a lot of assets or a higher level of expenses for your child, it’s recommended you speak to an attorney for assistance with your case.

Child Support Modification

A child support order can be changed after it was issued, usually because circumstances have since changed. In most cases, you need to be able to show that the new support amount would be at least 10 percent more or less than the original order amount. There are many different circumstance changes that could call for a support change, but among the most common is loss of income, a parenting time change or changes to the health insurance the parent covering the child has. When parenting time – the amount of time a child is to spend with each parent – changes, it affects the way the support award is calculated. If one parent previously had the child most of the time, but the child now lives mainly with the other parent, the parent the child is now with may have a support obligation that is too high. Keep in mind that child support modifications are usually only retroactive back to the date the request was filed in court. The longer you wait to start the process, the more you may lose out on or overpay when it comes to support.

If you are currently paying support and believe you are overpaying, you still need to keep up on this obligation until the court changes your order. Until it’s formally modified, you are legally obligated to pay that amount and could face enforcement actions, such as wage  garnishment and other penalties, if you don’t comply.

Similarly, parents who feel they are being unpaid still must honor the parenting plan. Payment of support isn’t tied to visitation at all, so you can’t withhold your child from his or her other parent because of child support issues. The court tends to view a parent who won’t allow the other parent his or her visitation (outside of safety concerns) in a negative right, and it could even impact the custody arrangement you have in place.

In Colorado, child support does terminate when a child is emancipated, which happens when he or she turns 19, marries, joins the Armed Forces or graduates high school and becomes sufficient on his or her own. There are some cases in which support goes on after the child becomes 19, such as if he or she is still in high school. If there are back payments due on the child support when it terminates, those are still due and owing, and the paying parent has to pay them in full.

Child support and parenting time are interrelated issues that have a significant impact on the parent-child relationship and the parent’s finances. If you are involved in a child support case or need your current order changed, contact the dedicated and experienced team at Burnham Law about your case today.