Most of the custody cases, or divorces with children, handled by the Denver area family law attorneys at Plog & Stein, P.C. include the issue of child support. When most people think of child support, they picture a monthly dollar amount that is paid, such as $500 dollars, and nothing more. In reality, there is much more that goes into any child support agreement or order.
Colorado statutory section, C.R.S. 14-10-115 sets forth the basic provisions for arriving at that monthly child support number. It also sets forth other rules and duties of financial importance that any party to a custody case, or divorce case with children, should be aware of. Those other provisions are as follows:
1. Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-115, in addition to basic child support, the parties are also required to split medical or similar expenses not covered by insurance proportionate to their incomes. Specifically, statute calls these "extraordinary expenses" and calls for the splitting of any such expenses after the first $250 per year per child paid out of pocket. I am not aware of case law indicating who pays that first $250, though most Denver area family law attorneys seem to interpret the rule as indicating the child support recipient bears that initial $250 expense. Everything after should be divided. Often times, people presume these expenses are to be split equally. This can include uninformed attorneys. This works out great for the person with the higher income, but not so great for the other person.
2. C.R.S. 14-10-115 also makes provisions for how the children should be claimed for income tax dependency exemption purposes. Specifically, statute indicates that the right to claim the child should be allocated proportionate to the parties' individual financial contributions to the child. Again, this boils down to being divided proportionate to income. For example, if wife makes $150K per year and husband makes $50K per year and there is 1 child, wife should be entitled to claim the income tax dependency exemption for the child 3 out of 4 years. As with medical expenses, people often have false assumptions about how to divide the exemptions. The two common mistakes our divorce and custody attorneys see are people either presuming that the primary custodian gets to claim the kids or that the right to claim them is automatically split equally. As with medical expenses, these false assumptions can leave one party without full benefit of the law. A signficant statutory factor all parties to a child support case should keep in mind is that if all court ordered child support due and owing in the year in which the payor is entitled to claim the exemption is not paid by the end of the year, the payor loses the right to claim the exemption. Payors beware. Recipients, be ready to inform the payor that he or she lost the right, bright and early on January 1.
3. Statute also authorizes the splitting of transportation costs related to transporting children for parenting time. Our attorneys rarely see this issue when we are talking about visitation schedules between parties in the Denver metro area. However, when one parent lives out of town or out of state, the cost of transporting the child for parenting time can be split proportionate to income and as an additional expense to the monthly child support amount. This can include the cost of a parent having to travel with a child for the parenting time, such as a parent's plane ticket, if the child is under 12.
4. The last topic for discussion in this child support article relates to the cost of extras, such as clothing, school expenses, and other necessities. Generally, child support is presumed to cover such costs. However, in a child support worksheet B situation, in which the payor has 93 overnights per year or more of visitation, or what the child support statute would refer to as a "shared" or "split" physical care situation, the basic monthly child support amount owed starts to go down. Because of such, it is presumed that the payor, in addition to the monthly child support amount, will also be kicking in on clothes, required school expenses, etc. This does not mean that the payor has to pay the other party his or her share of a pair of shoes for Billy or of a dress for Sally. It does mean that that person is also presumed to be buying Billy and Sally some shoes or dresses as well. If not, court intervention can be sought.
Child support is more than child support. Your Denver divorce or child support attorney will know this. Those at Plog & Stein certainly do. Now you will too.