When a court divides parenting responsibilities, it will often attempt to determine how much of the parents’ income would have been apportioned to the support of each child if the household remained intact. The court will then apportion payments based on factors including the financial resources of the child and of both the custodial and non-custodial parents, and any individual emotional or physical needs of the child. The division of parenting time between the parties can impact the amount of child support owed. More parenting time, which presumably entails actual financial support, is typically a factor which supports paying less toward court-ordered child support through the other parent.
The court’s goal when ordering child support is, to the extent possible within the limitations of the parents’ income, to preserve an adequate standard of living for the child. The income of a parent is often a hotly debated number. Colorado courts usually rely on “adjusted gross income” as a starting point to determine child support owed. Adjusted gross income means income from almost any source, including salaries, bonuses, etc., minus maintenance (alimony) and any preexisting child support requirements.
The actual child support calculations used in Colorado can be subject to several exceptions and alterations. Courts will consider personal circumstances while trying to determine a fair support order. As a general guideline, a Colorado Child Support worksheet can be downloaded here.
CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT
Enforcement of a court’s child support order is a very common source of concern and litigation following a dissolution of marriage or an allocation of parenting time. Like failure to pay spousal maintenance, failure to pay child support violates a court order.
A court can order remedies to this violation which include wage assignment or garnishment, interception of government benefits, fines, costs for enforcement, and even jail time.
Colorado Child Support Enforcement is authorized to suspend a non-paying party’s driver’s license, professional occupational licenses, recreational licenses, deny passports, intercept taxes and lottery winnings, as well as file liens against property.
Wage assignment is among the most common remedies. It involves notice to the non-paying party’s employer and redirecting a portion of the salary directly toward the child support owed. Sometimes recovery can also be made against retirement benefits.
Child support can be modified upon request to the court with sufficient justification. If circumstances change, such as a change in income for a parent, or a change in the child’s economic circumstances, the party seeking a modification should act quickly to make the required notifications. Without action, there is no change. So a parent who loses employment and cannot pay child support should not simply stop paying, then request relief later when they are being held in contempt of court. Most retroactive modifications extend to the date of the first notification/request for change.
If you need help with a child support order, please call our office right away.