Understanding how Child Support Is Determined
How Overnights Factor Into Child Support Payments
Time with Child Determines Child Support Payments
Divorce is a difficult process for any couple, but it becomes much more challenging when one or more children are involved.
Statistics from the mid-1980s indicated that around 50 percent of U.S. children would see their parents split up. Thanks to Millennials waiting longer to marry and experiencing a lower divorce rate than previous generations, that figure is likely to have fallen over the last couple of decades.
But the decline in divorce rates among younger generations does not change the reality for those families with kids that do go through a divorce. A decoupling of parents is especially difficult for children, which is why courts nationwide and in Colorado consider the interests of the children first and foremost when it comes to decisions related to custody and child support.
While entire books can be written on what goes into these decisions, a frequent area of confusion among separating spouses is how the amount of child support is determined.
Once custody is determined, the courts will consider a number of factors, starting with gross income. According to Colorado’s child support guidelines:
Calculation of the gross income of each parent, gross income being 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 1 child, and an additional 10% for each additional child) of the combined gross income of the parents, which is then split between both parents, depending on other factors.
Those other factors include but are not limited to considerations such as which parent provides health insurance, child care costs, the financial resources of the child, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved, and the physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs.
The other significant factor considered in the amount of child support payments is the amount of time the non-custodial parent spends with the child, specifically the number of overnights. In general, the more the child stays with the non-custodial parent, the lower the child support.
The reasoning behind this is that the non-custodial parent is covering the day-to-day costs when the child is with him or her. So, in a situation where parents share custody 50-50, the child support payments will be minimal. In a scenario where the non-custodial parent has fewer than 90 overnights, then child support payments will be higher.
Where many non-custodial parents become frustrated is with the reasoning behind high monthly payments. Much of this, however, stems from a misunderstanding of just how much money it actually takes to raise a child.
A 2017 study by the United States Department of Agriculture found that it costs an average of $233,610 to raise a child from birth through age 17. That’s a little over $1,100 per month from birth. And those costs just include the basic daily necessities, such as food, education, transportation, clothing, health care, personal care, and entertainment. Families saving for college can expect to spend even more.
It is also important for parents to understand that Colorado, like many states, is a child-focused state. The courts place a much higher priority on meeting the child’s needs. The parents’ needs are secondary. So, a non-custodial parent will have little recourse in fighting against what he or she might feel is an unduly high child-support payment. The court basically plugs all mitigating factors into a computer and a formula determines the payment that is best for the child.
The only circumstances that might lead to a change in the payment is if one or more of those factors change, such as a change in income, a change in the number of overnights, or a change in child care needs.
The State of Colorado has several resources for those seeking more information about child support.