Colorado’s child support guidelines follow a model used by about half the states in the country. It is based on the notion that the children should receive the same proportion of parental income they would have received had the two-parent household not dissolved. This model goes by the name “income shares” because of the “shares” that a child can claim of the assets of his or her parents. This formula first computes a basic support obligation, based on the combined income of the parents, which represents the amount those parents would be presumed to spend on the children if the household stayed intact. This amount is then allocated to each parent proportionately based on their share of the total income. Expenses such as child care and health insurance are then added to the total and likewise distributed according to each parent’s percentage share of the total income. The end result is a child support order that represents each parent’s monthly financial obligation to the children.
Do the guidelines take into account BOTH parents’ incomes?
Yes. The income shares model yields a child support order based on the complete picture of the income of the parents and the expenses related to the children. Unlike methods that rely on a percentage of one parent’s income, Colorado’s child support guidelines take into account the incomes of both parents. The income shares model is also flexible enough to allow for the consideration of alternative parenting arrangements where the children spend different parenting times with their parents.
The heart of the child support guidelines is the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations. This table lists the total amount an intact family with a given income would be expected to spend on one, two, three, four, five or six or more children. The table does NOT list the amount payable from one parent to the other. Rather, the appropriate amount will be allocated based on each parent’s percentage share of the combined gross income.
Do the guidelines apply to all income situations?
Today there are two circumstances where the guidelines are not used. The first exception is for families whose combined monthly gross income is below $850. A child support order of $50 per month will be issued in these cases. The second exception is at the other end of the income spectrum. The schedule does not apply to families whose combined gross monthly income exceeds $20,000. For these cases, the figure at the high end of the chart serves as a starting point.
Legislation enacted in 2013 made several changes to the Schedule of Basic Child support Obligations. Beginning in January 2014 the schedule has been revised to include the application of a minimum order formula for income below $1,100 per month. In circumstances in which the parents’ combined monthly adjusted gross income is less than $1,100 per month the minimum order is $50 per month for one child; $70 per month for 2 children; $90 per month for 3 children; $110 per month for 4 children; $130 per month for 5 children; and $150 per month for 6 or more children. And as of January 2014, when the parents combined gross income exceeds $30,000 per month, the figure at the high end of the chart will serve as a starting point.
The new schedule provides for slightly lowered child support for one child in some cases. Child support for more than one child is higher throughout all incomes.
To learn more about the Colorado Child Support Guidelines and to get help sorting out your respective incomes and your children’s expenses, check out the “Friendly Divorce Guidebook: How to Do Your Own Divorce in Colorado” by M. Arden Hauer MA, JD.