In family law, child support is a heavily litigated aspect of most cases. Child support provides a set amount of money allotted monthly to raise a child. It is a Court Ordered ongoing, monthly payment made by one parent to the other for the care and benefit of their child when the parents do not live together. The amount of child support a parent pays varies by state—and each state has its own formula for determining child support.
Calculating child support can initially appear complicated. Parent’s incomes, the number of overnights a child spends with each parent, the costs of healthcare and child care costs are all factors that go into calculating child support. Given the dynamic landscape of the child support process, here are five things you should know before filling:
- Every state is different in how it calculates child support and the amounts paid can vary greatly.
- Child support is a right of the child—not of the parent who receives the support. A Court won’t necessarily allow a parent to waive child support even with 50/50 custody and often, the parent must convince the Court they can raise the child without financial difficulty—even if not receiving any child support.
- Child support is not calculated upon the amount of debt or expenses a parent has; nor does it even consider the amount of debt. The Court is far more concerned that a child’s caretaker receives sufficient funds to properly care for the child. Some of the expenses that are considered when calculating child support are healthcare premiums, childcare costs, extraordinary/special needs expenses for the child, child support paid for a child of another relationship and occasionally travel expenses. At no time does the Court consider rent, credit card payments, car or car insurance payments relevant to calculations of child support. This may seem harsh—and it is often harsh causing the paying parent to lead a much leaner lifestyle.
- The most heavily litigated aspect of child support is determining the incomes of the parents. In family law, everyone fights over money; and, in family law how much someone makes means everything. If both parents are W-2 employees (receiving a W-2 tax form each year) the determination is easy. What is the number on the W-2? However, contract workers, part-time employment, self-employment, disability, unemployed (voluntarily and involuntarily) and even social security are part of the complex mix. Colorado law specifically lists all forms of payment considered “income”-- and the list is surprising long and comprehensive. For most people, every single dollar they make—no matter how little or the form of the payment—is “income”.
- Child support ends at different ages of children depending on the states’ laws. Some states cease support at age 18, others at 19 or the completion of high school. Colorado is unusual because while custody orders cease when the child becomes an adult at 18, child support continues until 19 years old. In every state emancipation (living on their own, paying their own bills) terminates child support. However, a child who is off to college but still coming home for holidays, is usually not considered emancipated.
- Child support can always be modified or changed; but in Colorado, a new child support order will not take effect unless it is a 10% or more change in the amount owed.
- Failure to pay child support can have serious legal and financial consequences since it is a court-ordered payment. Suspension of driver’s licenses, interception of tax refunds and incarceration are just some of the penalties.
For the parent with the majority of custody, child support payments are never enough. For the paying parent, they are always too much. Either way, the state sets the rate and determines the calculations. Using a state’s child support website can help parents going through a breakup determine their likely child support.
If you live in the Colorado Springs or El Paso County area and you are currently going through a custody case—with or without a divorce—The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson & Associates, PC, can help you understand your child support obligations and Court Orders. Attorney Jeanne Wilson understands how difficult any separation can be, not only for the parents, but for the child as well. The financial burdens and the fear accompanying a custody fight can seem overwhelming. Let her help you gain confidence in the Court system as you navigate the financial labyrinth that is child support. You and your children deserve the best. Call for a consultation today.