When a couple divorces or separates, partners may find themselves worried about how to care for their children with a reduced income. If there is a paternity dispute, you may be worried that your spouse will try to dodge his responsibilities. Colorado’s child support laws are designed to ensure that the basic needs of children are met and that parents are held accountable for supporting them.
In the sections below we will explain the relevant child support laws and help you understand what to expect before, during, and after court. Retaining an experienced Colorado family law attorney can relieve some of the confusion and concerns you may have about the child support process.
Colorado Springs, CO Child Support Attorney
Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC has years of experience handling family law cases in Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas of El Paso, Arapahoe, and Denver Counties. We have represented Colorado clients in a wide variety of family law cases including divorces, separations, paternity disputes, and custody cases. We are committed to making sure the process goes as smoothly as possible and guiding you every step of the way.
Not knowing how you will be able to support your kids can be stressful to both partners whether you are seeking to increase the payments you receive or limit the payments you make. Rely on our skill and knowledge in this trying time to give you some peace of mind – call (719) 328-1616 today to schedule a free consultation.
Overview of Child Support Law in Colorado
- Establishing Paternity
- Determining the Amount
- Deviating from the Child Support Guidelines
- Modifying an Existing Child Support Order
- Failure to Pay Child Support
- Additional Resources
Before a child support order can be issued by a court, there must be a decision as to who a child’s parents are legally. Mothers are considered legal parents simply by giving birth to a child, but determining who the father is can be more difficult. For married couples, courts operate on the presumption that the husband is the father if a child is born in wedlock.
For unmarried couples, an “Acknowledgment of Paternity” signed at the hospital following the birth of a child becomes a legal finding of paternity after 60 days. Without this document, the father must either admit paternity voluntarily or the mother can request a court-ordered genetic test to establish paternity through DNA matching.
Determining the Amount
Once legal paternity is established, the next step in the process is for courts to calculate the amount of support owed using a complex formula called the “Colorado Child Support Guidelines,” which are designed to make the amount consistent and predictable. The guidelines factor in child-rearing expenses like food and clothing, health insurance, doctor visits, and education.
Which parent receives the payments will depend on how parental responsibility, otherwise known as custody, is divided. Usually the parent with primary custody gets the child support, but this can vary in cases of shared custody. Another major consideration is the gross income of each parent, which is defined as total income from sources including wages, tips, pensions, and benefits. For example, if the parent raising the child has very little income and the noncustodial parent has a large income, payments may be higher. If the reverse is true, the noncustodial parent may have to pay nothing.
The guidelines start with the determination of a “basic child support obligation” based mainly on the combined amount of both parents’ income and the number of children. The amount of support owed is then factored based on the parents’ proportional incomes. A competent Colorado family law attorney can assist you in understanding the complicated formulas used to calculate child support.
Deviating from the Child Support Guidelines
Judges presume that the amount specified in the guidelines is fair, but a request for an adjustment can still be made before the final child support order is issued. Whether you are the one paying or the one receiving child support, you can request a “deviation” if you think the amount is either too high or too low.
Requests for a deviation require a court hearing at which you must convince the court that there is a good reason for adjusting the amount. The court will not consider optional expenses – for example, simply being unable to buy a nicer car or purchase a flat screen TV will not entitle you to pay a lower amount.
Modifying an Existing Child Support Order
A “modification” is similar to a “deviation” but is done after the order has already been issued rather than before. Modifications also require a hearing, and courts will only grant a modification if there has been a change in circumstances.
For example, you may be unable to pay the amount initially ordered because of a recent disability that is stopping you from working. On the other hand, if you are the custodial parent, you might request a modification due to an unexpected increase in the cost of childcare or education. Consult with a family law attorney to explore your options.
Failure to Pay Child Support
Failure to pay child support consistently will result in back payments, call “arrearages,” adding up until they are paid in full. If arrearages are owed, the state can take up to 65% of your disposable earnings by issuing a “Writ of Garnishment” to collect part of each paycheck you receive. The state can also issue a one-time garnishment and dip into your non-income personal property, like your bank accounts. Child Support Services can also “intercept” other monetary sources, such as IRS refunds, unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits, and even lottery winnings.
Your personal property, such as homes and vehicles, can have liens placed on them that will prevent you from selling or transferring the property until all arrearages have been paid. Finally, not paying child support can even result in criminal charges for contempt of court. A warrant may be issued for your arrest, and you may have to remain in jail until the back payments are paid.
Colorado Child Support Guideline – Here is the full text of the law that courts rely on to formulate the amount of child support payments. Before even hiring a lawyer, doing some of the math contained here can give you a better idea of what your payments might look like. An attorney may be able to help convince a court to adjust the suggested amount in your favor.
Child Support Services – Visit this site for official resources about child support in Colorado. Included here is information about making, receiving, and changing child support payments. You can also find instructions about how to enforce an order if you are not receiving what your child is owed.
Lawyer for Child Support in El Paso County, CO
Whether you want to increase the amount of child support you receive, limit the amount you have to pay, or hold your ex accountable for not paying what they owe, Law Offices of Clifton Black, PC can assist you. We have years of combined experience handling family law matters in Colorado Springs and across El Paso, Arapahoe, and Denver Counties.
Issues that arise from divorces, separations, and paternity disputes can lead to confusion and stress, but we are here to help you navigate the family law process from start to finish and put you in the best position for a favorable outcome. Call (719) 328-1616 today to schedule a free strategy session.