Calculation of Child Support

In Denver, Colorado, child support is calculated with a complex algebraic formula that takes into consideration the parents’ gross incomes, each parent’s time with the child(ren) and any tax deductions that are available to either parent. This formula is applied whenever the support of a minor child is to be determined, including dissolutions, paternity and domestic partnership cases.

Understanding the Child Support Guideline

Purposes of the Guideline

There are three purposes for the guideline: To provide for a minimum level of child support for a child in Denver, to provide for uniformity in the calculation of child support, and also to improve the efficiency of the court process by promoting settlements and giving courts and the parties guidance in establishing levels of awards. In order to achieve these purposes the guideline requires judges to follow its provisions, with deviations allowed only in limited and specified situations.

Underlying Principles

The guideline statute begins by setting forth the principles that are to be followed in its implementation. Among those principles are the following:

  • A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.
  • Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
  • The guideline is intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula.
  • Child support orders in Denver must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state’s standard of living and costs of raising children compared to other states.

Applying the Guideline

The guideline itself is a complex algebraic formula. Because of the complexity of the formula, computer programs are required in order that quick and accurate calculations can be obtained. To determine the child support guideline for a child, the following information must be obtained:

  • The gross incomes of each parent.
  • The number of overnights each child spends with each parent.
  • Payroll deductions, such as health insurance, pensions and union dues.
  • Child care costs incurred by either parent.

Once this basic information is inserted into the support calculation program, a guideline child support amount is generated.

Deviations from the Guideline Amount

The Colorado child support guideline that Denver must also follow, can be found in §14-10-115, Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.), which states the Colorado the guideline amount of child support, as determined by the formula, is “presumed to be the correct amount of child support to be ordered.” This means that the judge is required to order the guideline level of child support, unless there is a good reason why another amount of child support would be appropriate.

In creating the child support guideline the Colorado legislature understood that there may be situations when the mechanical application of the guideline would not be fair or reasonable. C.R.S. §14-10-115 contains a list of factors which, if present, can justify a judge’s discretion to award child support that is higher or lower than the amount generated by the guideline formula. Among those factors are the following:

  • The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children.
  • A parent party is not contributing to the needs of the children at a level commensurate with that parent’s custodial time.
  • Cases in which both parents have substantially equal time-sharing of the children and one parent has a much lower or higher percentage of income used for housing than the other parent.
  • Cases in which the children have special medical or other needs that could require child support that would be greater than the formula amount.

Child Support Add-Ons

In addition to the basic child support guideline amount, a parent can be ordered to contribute to specified expenses that are for the benefit of the children. C.R.S. §14-10-115 lists types of child support add-ons.

Mandatory Add-Ons: The judge is required to order a contribution to the following as additional child support: (1) Child care costs related to employment or to reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills; and (2) The reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children.

Discretionary Add-Ons: The judge can also order a parent to contribute to: (1) Costs related to the educational or other special needs of the children; and (2) Travel expenses for visitation.

If the judge in a Denver court room makes orders for any child support add-ons, any such expenses are usually equally shared by the parents. However, where an equal allocation of these expenses is not reasonable, the court is authorized to allocate them between the parents in proportion to their incomes.

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