The new year has brought with it continuing changes to the Colorado child support laws. The team here at The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson & Associates, PC, wants you to know about these changes so you can plan for your future and the well being of your Children.
The 2019 changes addressed a number of issues and began taking effect as early as July 2019 with some provisions not being enacted until July 2020. For example, before July 2019, the Court would not usually impute an income to a primary caretaker of a Child under 30 months old (2 ½ years). However, under the changes, as of July 2019, the Court can impute an income to the primary caretaker of the Child at 24 months of age. This means the primary caretaker could now be presumed to be voluntarily unemployed 6 months earlier and the Court can impute an income for the primary caretaker when the Child turns 2.
Another July 2019 change was in the form of the legislature not only mandating that the Court could not impute an income to a full-time student, but the Court could not impute an income to a part-time student who also worked part-time. The meaning and effect of this rule is still likely to be varied depending upon the Court. The meaning of “part-time” and what constitutes sufficient “part-time employment” while a part-time student, will be subject to judicial interpretation.
Prior to July 2019, an incarcerated parent (in jail or prison) would not have an income imputed to them if their sentence was 1 year or more. After July 2019, that time period has shrunk to 6 months. This means that someone serving a 6 months or more sentence would not have an income imputed to them. This will mostly affect misdemeanor cases and will affect the primary parent the most who will be deprived of child support.
Some of the early enactments really just codified what Courts have been doing and how prior laws were interpreted. For example, before the statute change determining if someone was voluntarily unemployed or underemployed was a matter for the Court to decide from whatever evidence was presented. Now, the statute specifically lists the factors the Court must consider—although the list of factors closely parallels what Courts have already been looking at for years.
Those factors, in accord with 14-10-115(5)(b.5)(II), C.R.S., are the following for a parent:
- Employment and earnings history;
- Job skills;
- Level of education
- Criminal record
- Any other barriers to employment
- Record of seeking work
- Local job market
- Availability of employers in the community
- Prevailing earnings in community
- Any other relevant factors.
Beyond those 2019 child support law changes, there are several additional changes coming this year on July 1, 2020. One change will specifically describe how to calculate child support if there is more than one Child and the Children are on different parenting time schedules. Prior to the statutory change, case law dictated how this calculation was made. The statute now parallels the case law—so no more guessing.
Starting July 1, 2020 mandatory school fees will be addressed in the child support calculations. The new statue states that, ‘mandatory school fees, defined as “fees charged by a school or school district, including a charter school, for a child attending public primary or secondary school for activities that are directly related to the educational mission of the school, including but not limited to laboratory fees; book or educational material fees; school computer or automation-related fees, whether paid to the school directly or purchased by a parent; testing fees; and supply or material fees paid to the school…[but] not… uniforms, meals, or extracurricular activity fees,” will be addressed (C.R.S. 14-10-115(3)(c.5)).’ Currently, the child support statute only addresses payment of fees for expenses for special, private or secondary schools to meet the particular educational needs of the child and not the typical or normal education fees children come across in school. The mandatory school fees will be divided by parents in proportion to their incomes to better attribute the children’s education fees and better apportion them more evenly between parents.
Finally, starting July 1, 2020 there will be changes to the disability section of the child support laws in Colorado. Specifically, if a noncustodial parent receives disability benefits or employer-paid retirement benefits from the federal government, the noncustodial parent shall notify the custodial parent and child support enforcement, if they are a party to the case, within 60 days of receipt of notice of said benefits. The custodial parent must then apply for dependent benefits for all children within 60 days of receiving this notice from the other parent. Once this step is completed and once benefits are received there essentially will be a dollar-for-dollar reduction in child support paid. The reason for such a change is to reach a more equal support level for each side in proportion to their earnings. This is not typically that common, but it will impact some cases here in El Paso County and Colorado.
All of these child support statutory changes were enacted fill the gaps that seemed to complicate past child support calculations. The biggest piece to these new laws is the inclusion of the payment of mandatory school fees and the more effective calculation of overnights for both parents. It’s evident the legislature is trying to improve the legal fairness of child support amounts by calculating support more appropriately. The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson & Associates, PC, is here to help you understand these new laws that are coming into effect in this year. We will help to assist you with your personal child support case as well. Our Colorado laws aren’t perfect but at least we are attempting to improve them year to year. If child support is a part of your family law case, don’t hesitate to call us. Attorney Jeanne M. Wilson is willing and able to fight for you and what’s best for your child. Call Jeanne today!