Child Support Attorney in Fort Collins
Comprehensive Counsel for Child Support Cases
Figuring out all the rules and regulations governing child support orders in Colorado can be confusing and frustrating. If you are navigating a child support dispute, be sure to retain a trusted family lawyer. I am a Fort Collins child support attorney with 15 years of experience to apply to your case. Let me guide you forward through mediation, negotiation, or litigation if need be.
Child Support Guidelines in Colorado
Colorado has guidelines that determine child support awards. The guidelines are used to determine the cost to raise the child had the parents not separated. The formula is based on each party’s gross income, the number of children, and the number of overnights. It also factors in health insurance premiums, tax breaks, childcare costs, and other expenses. Most often, the court orders the amount calculated through the guidelines.
Childcare costs are added to the basic obligation. Net childcare costs (the cost of childcare after the federal tax credit) are divided between the parents if the childcare is necessary because of employment, job search, or education. The childcare costs must be reasonable, meaning that they cannot exceed what a licensed professional would charge to give quality care.
Extraordinary Medical Expenses
Extraordinary medical expenses are also added to the basic obligation. Extraordinary medical expenses are payments over health care premiums that not covered by health insurance. The statute defines an “extraordinary” expense as any medical expense of over $250 per child. These expenses are divided proportionally between the parties based on their incomes.
When Courts Deviate from Child Support Guidelines
The court may deviate from the guidelines if the award would be inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate. This does not normally occur.
The court might deviate from the guidelines if:
- The parent or their current spouse requires extraordinary medical care
- There is a gross disparity in income between the parties
- One parent has substantial income from a second job
- A parent has significantly more parenting time than is being reflected in the overnight calculation
How Support Payments Are Used
Child support is not a payment to the other parent. Instead, the recipient is supposed to use child support on childcare expenses, such as food, housing, clothing, extracurricular activities, etc. That said, the payor cannot force the recipient to use the child support payments on any specific item or even on childcare in general. This can be frustrating for the person paying child support.
The law presumes that child support will be spent on childcare and does not provide any means of enforcing that the recipient uses it in a particular manner. The statute does contain a provision that states that the court may refer the parties to a mediator if the noncustodial parent claims the child support is not being spent on childcare.
What to Do When a Parent Fails to Pay Child Support
Child support is entirely independent of visitation rights. You cannot take matters into your own hands and refuse visitation, even if your former spouse is refusing to pay child support. If you do so, you will be in violation of the court’s custody order. Instead, visitation is a matter you should discuss with your child support lawyer.
This is not to say that a person will not face penalties if they fall behind on child support payments.
In Colorado, child support payment can be enforced with:
- Liens on real estate, personal property, or motor vehicles
- Wage garnishment
- Tax offsets
- Credit bureau reporting
- Suspension of professional license
- Suspension of driver’s license
- Jail time
The Court Can Order Income Assignments
The judge can order an income assignment. When an income assignment is ordered, a notice is sent to the payor’s employer, telling them to deduct child support payments from the payor’s paycheck. The support payment goes directly to the Family Support Registry before it reaches your paycheck.
The court can also apply an income assignment to retirement benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment checks, and other sources of gross income.
How Long Does Child Support Last?
You must pay child support until your child turns 19 or until the month following high school graduation. This rule is different than many states that only require you to pay until the child reaches 18 years old. If your child is disabled, child support may continue even after the age of 19.