Child support is one of the critical issues requiring your attention if you’re getting a divorce and have minor children. By law, both parents are required to provide support to minor children to adequately provide for their needs during and after a divorce.
Here’s what you need to know to help guide you in this process.
- Who Must Pay Child Support in Colorado
- How is Child Support Determined in Colorado?
- What is the Purpose of Child Support?
- Which Agency Oversees Child Support in Colorado?
- How Do I Ask for Child Support?
- Does Alimony Affect Child Support?
- Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
- Verifying Fatherhood
- Consequences of Not Paying Child Support
- Modifying Child Support Payments
- Child Support and Taxes
- When Does Child Support End in Colorado?
Who Must Pay Child Support in Colorado?
Both parents are legally obligated to financially support their children and provide basic needs, such as food, housing, clothing, and an education.
This obligation exists even if the parent and child live in different households, the parents were not married to each other when the child was born, or either parent remarries.
Support must still be paid even when the parent who provides the child’s primary residence refuses to allow visitation or the parent who does not provide the child’s primary residence lives or works in another state.
How is Child Support Determined in Colorado?
CSS local offices use state guidelines (COL. REV. STAT. §14-10-115) to determine how much child support a parent must pay.
A guideline worksheet is a form used to calculate the amount of child support owed. Colorado has two guideline worksheets to help estimate what is owed. Exact child support order amounts are calculated when the order is established.
- Worksheet A, “Sole Physical Care” is used in cases when one parent has 92 or fewer overnights
- Worksheet B, “Shared Physical Care” is used when both parents have more than 92 overnights with the child.
A calculation of the gross income of each parent starts the process. Gross income is income from any source other than child support payments, public assistance, a second job, or a retirement plan.
Child support is a percentage (roughly 20% for one child and an additional 10% for each additional child) of the parents’ combined gross income, which is split between both parents, depending on other factors.
These other factors can include:
- Gross income disparities between the parents
- A parent owning a substantial non-income producing asset
- Financial resources of the child and the custodial parent
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved
- The physical and emotional condition of the child and their educational needs
- The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent
- Expenses, including health insurance and daycare
- Other child support orders, financial support is given to children the parent may have with another partner, and any alimony that may be due or received
If you are required to pay, an employer can only take up to 60% of your income for child support. If you think too much is being taken out, contact your local county child support office to discuss your options.
Also, child support guidelines max out at $30,000 per month of combined incomes. Beyond that, the judge may apply the support as if the income were exactly $30,000 or extrapolate above that on a case-by-case basis.
One other thing worth noting is that the parent ordered to pay support cannot control how the money is spent. Colorado child support laws simply presume that child support is spent on the children.
Read More: Colorado Alimony Laws and Guidelines
What is the Purpose of Child Support?
Child support is the ongoing monetary expenditures and payments to cover a child’s living and medical expenses. It is a recurring payment by a parent for a minor child when that parent does not have full custody. In some cases, support may be extended indefinitely, such as when a child has ongoing health or medical needs.
The goal is to protect the child’s welfare with an agreement fair to both parents. This agreement can be reached by the parents or determined by the courts.
Which Agency Oversees Child Support in Colorado?
Colorado’s Child Support Services (CSS) Program oversees child support in Colorado and is part of the Colorado Department of Human Services. CSS offers several services to ensure children receive regular financial support from both parents.
CSS staff are located at the state office and in county child support offices across Colorado and assist with:
- Setting up a child support and medical health insurance order
- Collecting child support payments
- Changing an existing child support order
Individual child support orders are established and managed by Colorado’s county child support offices.
The Child Support Services State Office is located at:
1575 Sherman Street, 5th floor
Denver CO 80203
Phone: (303) 866-4300
To find the county office closest to you, use the Find a County Office search button on every page of the CSS website.
All child support and maintenance payments are processed through Colorado’s Family Support Registry (FSR). The FSR processes payments for cases managed by local county child support offices and orders that are not enforced by counties.
An “order not enforced by a county” (Non IV-D) account is used when:
- A Colorado court has ordered the paying parent to pay child support payments through the FSR
- Neither parent has applied for help with child support collection or enforcement at a county child support office
- The person receiving payments is not on TANF
Contact information for FSR varies depending on the service required:
FSR Customer Service
Metro Denver: (303) 299-9123
Nationwide: (800) 374-6558
Hours: 8 am – 5 pm MST
FSR Employer Customer Service
Metro Denver: (303) 297-2849
Nationwide: (800) 696-1468
Hours: 8 am – 5 pm MST
Once an order has been put in place, FSR accounts are set up automatically. You will receive a notice by mail with a unique FSR account number used to process your payments.
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
CSS supervises the state’s child support system. However, each Colorado county manages individual child support cases based on state requirements and county guidelines. County child support offices in Colorado require an application to begin a child support case.
There are several ways to apply, but online is the fastest and easiest method.
You will be asked to provide information about yourself and the other parent, and providing as much information as possible will help CSS establish and enforce a child support order. If you don’t have answers or requested information, you can discuss your specific situation with your county child support caseworker.
If you cannot apply online, you can use a printable application. You will need to complete and mail the printed application to your county child support office.
CSS also assists when parents or caretakers who need child support services live in different states. Colorado may be able to handle a case the same way it would an in-state case. In other instances, the county child support office may need to contact the other state to help establish parentage, set up support, and enforce or change an order.
You can get more information about interstate cases here.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Colorado
Does Alimony Affect Child Support?
The short answer is yes, but several factors are taken into account. The court will examine whether alimony has been ordered, what other benefits the ex-spouse receives, the length of the marriage, and several other factors that will impact the child support formula.
Initially, there still must be a finding that one party has a need and that the other party can pay. Once a finding has been made, the Court can plug in the relevant criteria and apply the child support formula.
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
When establishing a child support order, Colorado law requires health insurance to be ordered as well. In the order, the mother, father, or either parent will be listed as the person required to provide health coverage.
Acknowledgment of paternity means legally identifying the parents of a child. When parents are married to each other, paternity is automatically established following the child’s birth in Colorado.
When a child’s parents are not married, it is important that paternity be legally established. This can be done through a court order, an administrative action, or a local county child support office. It can also be established when parents sign an Acknowledgement of Parentage at the hospital after the birth of a child.
Either parent may initiate parentage any time before a child turns 18 and, in some cases, up to age 21. Parentage can also be established if a mother or father lives in another state.
Parentage is important because all children have the right to know both parents. That also unlocks financial support such as child support, Social Security, inheritance, veterans’ benefits, and life insurance. Children can access health insurance through either parents’ employers, unions, or military branches.
When it’s not clear who the father is, either parent can request genetic testing. A paternity test should be completed to accurately determine the child’s biological father.
Either parent may pay for a private DNA test. If a parent applies for a child support order, the fee for genetic testing is covered upfront by CSS. The county will seek reimbursement from the confirmed parent if parentage is determined.
You can get more information on establishing parentage here.
Consequences of Not Paying Child Support
CSS can take several possible enforcement actions when a parent does not comply with a child support order.
The most common way to enforce a child support order is by filing a “motion for contempt.” This means a judge has decided a person has violated a court order.
There are two types of contempt in Colorado.
Remedial contempt means that you are asking a judge to put the other parent in jail until they comply with the order.
Punitive contempt means you’re asking a judge to punish the other parent for purposely refusing to pay child support by sentencing the other parent to jail time and/or imposing a fine.
As part of these contempt motions, you can also ask the court to order the other parent to pay for the attorney’s fees and court costs associated with trying to enforce the order.
Courts can take several other actions, including:
- Wage garnishment
- Asset garnishment
- Placing liens on real and personal property
- The forced sale of real and personal property
- Seizing tax refunds
- Seizing lottery and gambling winnings
- Seizing unemployment compensation benefits
- Bank account seizures
- Recreational (hunting and fishing) license suspension
- Credit reporting
- Driver’s license suspension
- Professional, occupational, and recreational licenses suspension
Non-paying parents can also be charged with a misdemeanor or, in some cases, a felony and be sent to jail.
Chart Source: https://childsupport.state.co.us/child-support-orders/enforcing-orders
Modifying Child Support Payments
Support orders can be reviewed for a potential change at any time. Typical reasons why reviews are requested include:
- The child has emancipated and is no longer living with the person receiving payment
- Either parent’s income has changed
- The costs of raising the child have changed
- The number of overnight visits the child has with the other parent has changed
- It has been three years since the order was reviewed
All child support review requests must be made in writing at the county child support office handling a case. The request must also include an Income and Expense Affidavit, supporting documents, and list the reason for the change.
It can take up to six months to review and change an order, resulting in the order going up, down, or staying the same.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support. However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent.
Many agreements include a provision that when there is an even number of children, each parent declares half the children as dependents. Parents sometimes alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a substantially similar statement.
When Does Child Support End in Colorado?
Emancipation occurs, and child support ends when the child reaches 19 in Colorado. However, if the child is still in high school or an equivalent program, support continues until the end of the month after graduation but not beyond 21.
Child support can also continue past age 19 if both the paying parent and person receiving payments agree in writing or the child is mentally or physically disabled, and continued support is ordered.
In other cases, a child support case may be officially closed when:
- An obligation ends, and the paying parent has paid all current and past-due child support
- A county child support office has been unable to create or enforce an order
- A paying parent or the person receiving payments cannot be found
- The person who signed up for child support services requests case closure
The local county support office may send a letter to the paying parent and the person receiving payments 60 days before closing the case. If new information about a case is received, it may be reopened.