Child support is considered a child's right in Colorado. In every divorce or custody case involving children in Colorado, the court will determine whether one parents owes the other child support. Usually child support does not continue indefinitely, of course; it terminates upon a child's emancipation.
"Emancipation" in Colorado occurs when a child turns 19, marries, joins the military, graduates from high school and/or becomes self-sufficient, or death--whichever comes first. These are considered the moments when a child becomes an adult.
Until child support is terminated, a mathematical formula in Colorado's child support guidelines are used to calculate the appropriate amounts. While it is possible to calculate the amount yourself using worksheets, an attorney can help you figure out whether you can ask the court for a deviation from the formula or not. For example, an attorney can argue to the court on your behalf if you need to ask for more child support because of large medical expenses or private school tuition. Support is calculated using both parents' incomes and taking into account how much time each parent spends with the kids. The guidelines do not apply, however, in the case of very low or very high-income parents.
The state's goal is to ensure that children are financially supported just as they would have been if their parents had stayed together. Under Colorado child support law, the parent who is responsible for making support payments is called the "obligor" and the recipient of the payments is the "obligee."
If you have a substantial change in circumstance, including emancipation of one out of multiple children or a significant change in income or the loss of a job, you can ask a family law judge for a reviewof a child support order. While it's unlikely that a noncustodial parent's child support obligation will be terminated, an order may be modified by the judge when circumstances warrant a change.
Occasionally, child support may be ordered beyond the child's 19th birthday or may never terminate. For example, Colorado requires that parents continue to support their child for the duration of a mental or physical disability that makes it impossible for the parent to work. The child support may include payments for "medical expenses or insurance or both, to continue beyond the age of nineteen." Colo. Rev. Stat. §14-10-115(1.5)(a)(2).
Child support orders created after July 1, 1997 terminate automatically once the last child in a family turns 19 unless there is an order to the contrary. However, a parent who still owes back payments of child support must pay off the arrearage even if the order has been terminated. And if the child support was ordered before July 1, 1997, a motion must be filed to have the obligation terminated once the last child in the family turns 19.
In Colorado, neither bankruptcy nor the death of the obligor extinguishes the obligation to pay child support. The child support obligation is taken very seriously; if necessary, one parent can petition the deceased parent's estate for payments.