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How is the child support amount determined?

Colorado residents may be interested to know how the state's courts go about determining the amount of child support a non-custodial parent is expected to pay. For those going through a divorce, the information could be important.

A commonly used method to determine how much child support a non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay is to base the amount primarily as a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent. For example, many states require the non-custodial parent to pay 20 percent of their income as child support if there is only one child. The percentage increases by 5percent for every child after that. This model can be problematic because it fails to take into account other variables such as how much income the custodial parent earns.

The method Colorado uses takes into account the amount of income both parents earn. It is meant to maintain the same support ratio that would have occurred if the parents had stayed together. This method begins by adding the income of both parents together. Then, it factors in how many children the couple must support. A total child support obligation amount is arrived at. The total child support obligation amount is then divided relative to how much of the total income is made by each parent.

For instance, if the total combined annual income of the both parents is $100,000 a year, and one parent made $70,000 a year and the other $30,000, then they would be responsible for 70 percent and 30 percent of the total child support obligation amount respectively. These percentages are then adjusted after taking into account any health insurance or child care expenses one of the parents may take on.

Setting up a child support order can be complicated. A family law attorney may be able to provide information and representation throughout the process to help a client get a fair outcome.

Source: Colorado Division of Child Support Enforcement, "A Father’s Guide to Child Support", November 17, 2014

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