Everything You Need to Know About Colorado Child Support Laws
In 2018, Colorado’s divorce rate sat at 8.7%, according to the Census Bureau. That represents a 3% decrease from the rate back in 2008. However, it’s still higher than the nationwide average of 7.7%.
All that makes the Centennial State one of the top 10 states with the most divorces. Colorado is also one of the top 10 states with the highest average divorce costs. While marriage dissolution is pricey as is, CO takes it to the next level, with its average cost being $14,500.
Colorado child support payments also add to all these post-marriage costs. They can be as low as $50 for one child, but that’s only for a paying parent who meets low-income requirements. In most other cases, obligation payments are proportionate to a parent’s income.
To that end, we created this guide covering the basics of child support laws in Colorado. Read on to learn what it is, how it works, and the consequences of failing to pay for it.
How Does Colorado Define Child Support?
Colorado Revised Statutes Title 14. Domestic Matters § 14-10-115 codifies the state’s child support laws. House Bill 19-1215 is the most recent revision, which took place in 2019. This bill resulted in some modifications to the state’s existing child support requirements.
However, the Centennial State’s basic definition of child support remains unchanged.
With that said, child support is a parental obligation and a child’s legal right. It’s a form of financial and emotional assistance that parents owe to their children. Since it’s a child’s legal right, the Centennial State punishes parents who breach it.
Child support laws ensure that kids get the same support they would if they still live with both parents. The parent who pays for child support is usually the one without custody. The parent who has custody then receives this payment and uses it for the child’s benefit and welfare.
If you need help in better understanding child support, it’s best to reach out to a child support attorney. These lawyers assess child support cases and clarify support terms and orders. They also help calculate, collect, and enforce anticipated payments.
How Is Colorado Child Support Payment Computed?
Colorado child support computations factor in both the child’s and parents’ financial needs. The first key factor is an assumption of the child’s standard of living if the parents didn’t divorce. The court also considers the child’s educational needs and physical and emotional condition.
Next, Colorado’s family courts determine both parents’ financial resources. Judges pay particular attention to each parents’ assets and gross income.
The gross income makes up all income sources, such as primary and supplementary jobs. It may also be a self-employed parent’s gross profits. Public monetary aid and retirement plans are also part of the calculation.
From here, Colorado’s family courts add both parents’ gross income. This combined income then becomes the basis of how much a non-custodial parent has to pay. The non-custodial parent pays about 20% for one child and an extra 10% for each additional child.
What Does Child Support in Colorado Cover?
The goal of child support payments is to help a receiving parent cover most of the costs of raising a child. These include food, clothing, shelter, toiletries, other necessities, and public school education. Health insurance is another cost both parents must contribute to, so it’s also part of the support.
One of the things that House Bill 19-1215 changed is the definition of “mandatory school fees.” As of July 1, 2020, child support payments must include the following:
- Any fee for activities directly related to the school’s educational mission
- Educational material fees (such as for books)
- Automation-related fees (including those for school computers)
- Testing fees
- Supply or material fees charged by the school
Uniforms and extracurricular activity costs are not part of the mandatory school fees. However, there are a few cases wherein the court may add them to the Colorado child support worksheet. Extracurricular activities may include school field trips, summer camps, and school clubs.
Up to When Must Parents Pay for Child Support?
Parents must make child support payments until the child turns 19. However, a Colorado family court may extend this up to 21 years if the child still goes to high school.
Payments are also indefinite for a child with a physical or mental disability. This applies to older kids whose conditions make them unable to support themselves.
What Happens if a Parent Loses a Source of Income?
From June 2015 to February 2020, Colorado’s unemployment rate hasn’t gone past 3.8%. However, this skyrocketed to 6.4% as of October 2020.
If you’re one of these employees who lost a job, you can file for a child support modification. In this case, the Colorado family court will recompute your support obligation. The court will base your payments on a computation method known as “Imputed Income.”
Imputed income is a court-assigned or credited income. Colorado applies this to child-support paying parents who report little to no income. The court bases this on a projection of how much you could have earned with a minimum wage job.
What Happens if a Parent Doesn’t Pay Child Support?
In Colorado, non-payment of child support can result in punitive and remedial sanctions. Parents who fail to make payments can also face license suspensions. The court may even hold them in contempt of court and incarcerate them.
Punitive sanctions include hefty fines for each child support order violation. They may also include a jail time of up to 180 days.
Remedial sanctions are other fees that may arise due to non-payment. For example, a custodial parent hires a lawyer due to the other parent not paying child support. In this case, the court may order the non-paying parent to pay for the other parent’s attorney fees.
The court may also order the suspension of a non-paying parent’s Colorado driver’s license. The same goes for professional, occupational, fishing, or hunting licenses. The court may also deem the unpaid support as debt and inform credit reporting agencies about it.
Every Child Deserves to Receive Adequate Support
As you can see, Colorado child support laws are so strict that offenders can find themselves in jail. After all, it’s every child’s right to receive care and support from their parents. All these should be enough reason for parents to learn about and follow these rules.
In case you’re having child support issues with your former spouse, reach out to a family lawyer.
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