Note: Please see below for minor amendments to Colorado child support laws, effective July, 2003.
Effective Jan. 1, 2003, the Colorado legislature modified the formula for determining child support, the Colorado Child Support Guidelines. This new Colorado law applies to all requests to establish or modify child support, filed on or after that date.
In Colorado, divorce and parentage laws have long provided a schedule to determine child support — in the ordinary case. Colorado child support is presumptively fixed by a shared income approach, which considers the combined gross income of both parents, the number of their children, and several adjustments for the parents’ other family obligations or child-related expenses. The judge must order this amount when requested, unless he or she makes findings that this amount would be unfair (and giving specific reasons in writing for ordering a different amount).
New Basic Colorado Child Support Schedule
The new Colorado law’s table of basic support obligation amounts has been revised. This obligation seeks to provide for Colorado children’s basic support needs (including clothing, housing and food). The Colorado legislative commission found the old table required updating of the basic support obligation amounts to reflect more accurately the current needs of Colorado children.
The new schedule also extends the range of basic Colorado child support obligations, to include those parents with a combined income of up to $20,000 (previously, the schedule included those parents with a combined income of up to $15,000). Child support obligations for Colorado parents with greater combined incomes is still determined as before — with the court having broad discretion to consider all the circumstances, including the respective finances of each parent, the parties’ prior standard of living, and the specific needs of the children.
New Low Income Adjustment For Child Support
Additionally, the new Colorado child support law provides for a new low income adjustment in certain circumstances. These include:
When a parent with a support obligation has an adjusted monthly gross income of less than $850, child support is presumptively fixed at $50 monthly.
When the parties have a combined adjusted monthly gross income of more than $850, but the parent with the lesser number of overnights has an adjusted monthly gross income of less than $1,850, a different approach to calculating child support is substituted for the ordinary percentage share from the schedule.
Overall Effect Of These Changes
It is difficult to generalize about the overall effect of the new Colorado child support law. Most legal authorities have observed that the changes in Colorado’s Child Support Guidelines tend to result in:
A greater level (than before) of child support for Colorado families with one to four children at the lower end of combined income ranges.
A lower level (than before) of child support for Colorado families with more children, or for families with moderate to higher combined income ranges.
As before, Colorado child support remains modifiable whenever changes in parenting time or the parties’ financial circumstances are substantial and continuing (so long as the prior orders would change by a factor of at least ten percent).
2003 Child Support Changes For Low-Income Parents
Effective July 1, 2003, the Colorado legislature amended several other minor provisions of these statutes calculating child support in Colorado (the Colorado Child Support Guidelines), as they pertain to low income Colorado parents. The new Colorado laws clarify that — where the parents’ combined monthly adjusted gross income is less than $850 — the ordinary $50 monthly minimum support child support order is not appropriate in cases of shared parenting (i.e., those cases in which each parent has a minimum of ninety three overnights with the children). Instead, the presumptive amount of child support would be that calculated by the Colorado Child Support Guidelines and may be a lesser amount.
The new Colorado child support laws also reiterate that support orders for low income parents with shared parenting time arrangements cannot exceed child support orders for low income parents with non-shared parenting time plans.
Mediation Of Colorado Child Support Issues
Mediation is often an efficient way to discuss and resolve child support issues — whether arising as part of a new divorce, or as part of changes after a Colorado divorce requiring modification. The range of possible Colorado “Guidelines” child support calculations can be collaboratively reviewed by both parents together, with a variety of different factors and support determinations considered.