Colorado uses an “income shares” model that determines presumptive child support orders based upon the gross (before tax) incomes of the parties, the number of children, the number of overnights the children have with either parent and the division of responsibility each parent has to pay certain “extraordinary” expenses.
The Colorado statute has been amended numerous times in the last twenty five years. It is currently the lengthiest section in Colorado’s Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act. The Statute can be confusing and allows discretion for deviations from the presumptive child support amounts if the Court makes specific findings to justify the deviations.
The categories of “income” that are required to be included in the calculations are numerous and include “income” that might not appear on a person’s individual tax returns. For example, regular “gifts” of cash to a recipient are included in his or her “income” for child support purposes. Maintenance paid is income to the payee and a deduction in income for the payor. Thus there is a relationship between child support and maintenance. There are other parts of the statute that make its application difficult.
Because of the complexity of the child support statute, it is important to have accurate and documented evidence of all sources of income and all expenses for the children. Good record keeping is essential to both analyze and present the case for an appropriate child support order.
Modification of a child support order is governed by C.R.S. §14-10-122. Before an existing child support order can be modified, a “substantial and continuing change” of financial circumstances must occur. This is a three pronged test. If the change is such that a 10% change (increase or decrease) in the current child support order would occur, using the guidelines, then presumptively, the “substantial” prong would be satisfied. However, there must also be proof that the change is “continuing” and not just a short term change. For example, if a parent loses his or her job, the loss of income might result in a “substantial” change but, if the change is not continuing, the threshold for modification is not met.
As with all areas of family law, the individual facts are important. The more organized a litigant’s facts, including documentation to support those facts, the more effective an attorney can be in advising a client about the statute. Our approach is to help litigants organize those facts and documents so as to determine as much as possible, what the child support number should be. The more organized and responsive the client is, the greater the savings in attorney fees for this effort.
For more tips and advice about child support, read our blog.