When does child support obligation end?

In Colorado a child support obligation typically lasts until a child turns 19, graduates high school, or joins the military, whichever happens first.  Colorado courts cannot order parents to pay for college education of their children. The obligation terminates automatically. C.R.S. 14-10-115(1.6). However, the obligation does not automatically terminate if:

  1. You still owe arrears.
  2. If you still owe child support for another child or children.
  3. If the support order was entered before July 1, 1997.

How does the court determine how much child support a parent pays?

In Colorado, the court first determines the the gross income of each parent. Information for these calculations is taken from the financial disclosures each party makes at the initial discovery stage of a divorce or custody case. The court determines the precise number of overnights the child has with each parent. Based on the number of overnights the court uses one of two formulas to calculate the necessary child support based on the parent’s incomes.

Child support can also be adjusted based on educational or healthcare expenses paid by one parent.  The calculations of exact numbers can be complicated. Other factors like the underemployment of a parent or certain deductions form gross income can make estimating a child support obligation on your own difficult. However, you can get a general idea by utilizing the Colorado courts child support calculator, available here: https://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm?Form_Type_ID=94.

A party can also receive back child support from before the time the child custody or divorce action was filed if the parents were not living together for a period before the case was filed. This amount is calculated based on the time the parents were living apart prior to the final court order in the case, unless the court has issued temporary orders for the period during litigation.

If the parent obligated to pay child support fails to pay, that parent owes “arrears” to the other parent.  Your local Child Support Enforcement Unit will help you enforce your existing child support order by garnishing wages, government benefits, or even lottery winnings, to satisfy judgments. The CSEU has some enforcement measures not available to private attorneys. However, the attorneys at Smith & Shellenberger, LLC.

How will the court determine if I or my ex-spouse owe Child support?

Parents have an obligation to take care of their child’s needs. Thus, child support is the right of the child, not a right of the parent. Whether you pay child support during and/or after a divorce depends on how much parenting time you have and exercise. If you split parenting time essentially equally, both parents or neither may have to pay child support or some combination of the two. If there is a primary custodial parent, the other parent will likely have to pay child support. C.R.S. 14-10-115


It is important to note that whether a parent will have to pay child support is not something the court takes into consideration in determining how much parenting time is in the best interest of the child. Thus, if you are concerned about the paying child support or don’t want to pay, this is not an issue you can raise with the court. If you would like to discuss a current or potential child support obligation with our attorneys one would be happy to meet with you.