How does is the amount of child support determined?

The calculation of child support, at its most basic premise, is primarily determined by the number of overnights each parent has with the child per year and each parent’s income. There are many other factors that can be considered in the determination of the child support amount, which we will review later in this article. However, each parent’s income and overnights are the most fundamental factors in establishing the amount of child support, so we will review how those factors are established first. In establishing these factors, the court first determines the adjusted gross income of each parent. The adjusted gross income for each parent is typically determined by the court’s review of the financial disclosures each party must provide to one another at the initial discovery stage of a divorce or custody/allocation of parental responsibilities case, which also includes the filing of a Sworn Financial Statement with the court. It is important to note though that the supporting financial disclosures, such as tax returns, pay stubs, and bank statements, are only required to be exchanged between the parties. Thus, if you want the court to review and consider these financial documents (both yours and/or the other parties’), then you must offer these documents into evidence as exhibits at the final trial, which is referred to as the Permanent Orders Hearing.

Once the parties’ incomes are established, the court will also determine the precise number of overnights the child has with each parent per year. Thus, child support typically cannot be determined until parenting time is first established. Once parenting time is established, the court then takes the number of overnights each parent is allocated each year and the verified adjusted gross income for each parent and uses a formula to calculate the child support amount. The child support amount produced as a result of this calculation serves as the statutory guideline for the amount the court should order. However, the statutory guideline is just that - a guideline. As such, the court can depart upward or downward from the statutory guideline if it finds good cause to do so. As a result, it is important to understand that you can request the court to depart from the statutory guideline amount. In doing so, however, you must be prepared to offer testimony or evidence to show why good cause exists for the child support to either be higher or lower than the guideline amount.

Other factors that the judge will consider that can affect the child support calculation is the cost of any out of pocket childcare expenses, healthcare expenses, or other reasonable and necessary extraordinary expenses related to the child, such as private education expenses, paid by one or both parents. The number of children that either parent have from other relationships and either care for or pay child support for will also affect the child support calculation, as will any party’s receipt or required payment of spousal maintenance. Additionally, the court can consider and determine if it believes one or both parents are voluntarily unemployed or purposefully underemployed for the purpose of shirking their child support obligation, and if so, impute a higher income to that parent than the parent is actually earning. Considering these many variables, the precise calculation child support can be complicated. However, you can get a general idea of the child support that may be ordered or agreed upon based upon your circumstances by downloading and utilizing the Colorado court child support calculator called Family Law Software, which is available here:

The attorneys at Smith & Shellenberger, LLC, are well-versed and experienced in child support proceedings. If you are interested in speaking to one of the attorneys at Smith & Shellenberger, LLC, regarding your child support issue, please contact us at (303) 255-3588.