Navigating a divorce is complicated, especially as a parent. You want what’s best for your children, but you also need to determine what the future will look like for you and your spouse. Though you will not be married any longer, there is still a lot to determine between the two of you, and chances are you will have to interact with them on some level when it comes to co-parenting your children. For some families, post-divorce involves shared child custody. For others, child support is more appropriate. Neither option is better than the other, and either one may work for your changing family structure. The one constant in both options is the necessity of child support attorneys on both sides of the negotiation, to ensure that the process is done legally and goes smoothly.
When couples divorce, they are no longer responsible to each other. However, if the couple shares children, each spouse is responsible for caring for their child, regardless of their marriage status. The court measures each parent’s contribution in both financial support and time spent raising the children. The two of these must be equal in some way. Child support payments are made from one parent to another to make up for a discrepancy in time spent with the children.
There is no hard and fast rule about when child support is warranted. If you and your ex-spouse spend roughly the same amount of time with your children, and you make similar amounts of income, it is unlikely that child support will be on the table. However, if either you or your spouse spends more time with the children, the other spouse may need to pay child support.
For example, let’s say that a father is the primary caregiver and his children live with him during the week and every other weekend. The children’s mother has custody every other weekend, and that’s it. The mother may be obligated to pay child support to the father, as she is spending less time raising her children. The payment makes up for her lower level of involvement.
Overall, child support is an option when there is a significant difference between the time each parent spends raising the children.
A parent’s income can also have an impact on whether child support is warranted after a divorce, as well. Let’s say that custody is more even than the above example, and the mother and father spend 4 and 3 days with the children, respectively. However, let’s say that the mother makes around $50,000 per year, while the father makes $180,000. Even though the parents spend nearly equal time with their children, the father has a significant financial advantage. In this case, he may be asked to pay child support to the mother, to even out the percentage of each parent’s income that is spent raising children.
Many people wonder how the court decides whether child support or shared custody is better for a given situation. Some parents want partial custody of their children, but are denied time and instead ordered to pay child support. This can seem intimidating, but you must remember that the court’s top priority is the health, safety, and happiness of the child. Though the parents likely have opinions or desires in these cases, the court remains steadfast in their quest to prioritize the children of the family. In some cases, this means that shared custody is appropriate. In other cases, child support payments are a better way for a parent to participate in their children’s lives.
The court takes into account many factors, and they vary depending on the situation. Some examples of factors that they will consider include:
None of these factors are a guarantee of either child support or child custody, but it is important to keep in mind that any factors that may harm the children, i.e. domestic violence charges, criminal history, unstable mental health, etc., may sway the court to rule for child support payments over active involvement.
Once a child support contract has been created via a family law attorney and approved by the courts, the supporting parent is obligated to make their payments on time, every month. The court enforces these payments because they know them to be essential to the wellbeing of the child or children involved. Therefore, failure to pay on time is considered a serious infraction. In fact, failure to pay, or late payments, are treated as a contempt charge. A contempt charge can result in additional fines or even imprisonment. This is why it is absolutely essential to submit child support payments on time every month.
Though child support agreements are strictly enforced by the courts, changes can still be made. Sometimes, circumstances change, and it is only appropriate to alter a child support payment schedule to reflect that. Changes that may warrant a modification include:
Though this is certainly not an exhaustive list, it gives a good idea of situations in which a child support modification may be warranted.
Law attorneys are not required for modifications, but it is in your best interest to hire one anyway. The stakes surrounding child support are extremely high, as the situation is directly related to your relationship with your children. If you do not hire an attorney, you jeopardize your relationship with your kids, and your ability to support them.
What’s more, the court may see your lack of attorney as a sign that you do not care about your children enough to hire one. Though this may not be the case, it is important to understand that the court’s impression is important, and it is in your best interest to make a good one. Without an attorney, you cannot do that.
Ultimately, a child support attorney will be able to ensure that your child support modification is fair, warranted, and legal. They will be able to walk you through the necessary steps, and ensure that the court sees your side of the story.
There are a few reasons that child support payments can be terminated. Though there aren’t many official reasons, it is possible to petition the court if your situation falls outside of the following criteria. However, it is unlikely for the court to approve the termination unless the following criterion has been met, or you and your child’s other parent both agree.
Otherwise, child support payments automatically end in the state of Colorado if:
In these situations, child support payments are no longer necessary, and the agreement can be dissolved.
Sometimes individuals have questions about why Colorado enforces child support payments until the child turns 19, rather than 18. On a basic level, this is to ensure that the child is out of high school when payments end. Because most students turn 18 while in their senior year of high school, ending payments at 18 would mean that the custodial parent would lose support before the child is ready to leave the house. Consider a child with a summer birthday. The child could turn 18 the summer before their senior year and the custodial parent would lose financial support for the following year, but the child would still live with the parent to go to school. For this reason, Colorado enforces payment until the age of 19.
It is important to make a distinction between a child’s independence and their emancipation. Emancipation is a legal process, and is recognized by the law. This process means that the child is no longer under the guardianship of a parent. Emancipation can occur for a variety of reasons, and triggers an automatic end to child support payments. A child’s independence, on the other hand, is subjective, and does not trigger an automatic end to these payments.
For example, if a child turns 18, moves out of their custodial parent’s home, and pays rent on their own home, they are not automatically considered emancipated. The process must be done officially in order for it to be recognized by the courts. For the supporting parent, this is important to note. If your child no longer lives with their custodial parent, but you are making payments to that parent, you must make a petition to end your child support payments. The process would not be automatic, as it is with an emancipation.
It is important to understand that child support payments vary in amount, and there is no set formula for deciding what your payments will be. Ultimately, the court will assess your situation as a whole and develop a fair amount. However, there is a minimum amount that is called for according to Colorado law. The minimums are:
Remember, this is simply a minimum. Most monthly child support payments are higher than this.
It is also worth noting that the minimums apply when the supporting parent is also responsible for that number of children, and does not refer to the amount of children in the house. For example, let’s say Parent 1 and Parent 2 have three children together. Parent 1 is responsible for paying Parent 2 child support every month. Parent 2 has custody of the couple’s three children, as well as 2 children from a different marriage. Parent 1 would still only be responsible for paying $90 per month for their three children, rather than for all five children. This is because the additional two children are not the responsibility of Parent 1, but rather the charges of Parent 2 and their other partner.
Each law firm is different, as is every case, so it is difficult to say how much your case may cost. Modifications of child support agreements generally cost between $1,000 and $3,000, but it depends on the law firm’s policies and how in-depth your case is. Some attorneys require a retainer, while others do not. In all cases, it is best to discuss payment with your attorney up front, to ensure that you understand their terms and fees, and feel prepared to work with them.
Here at Johnson Law Firm, we believe in the importance of family, which is why we have dedicated our practice to defending families and protecting them as they change and grow. For many years, our attorneys have been helping individuals go through divorce, child custody agreement cases, child support agreement cases, protective orders, and more family law essentials.
We pride ourselves on our community spirit and our tenacity in defending the values that our neighbors hold dear. Though we are merciless against our opponents in the courtroom, we exercise patience, humanity, and understanding in our one-on-one meetings. We know that our field deals with some of the most intimate and emotional areas of people’s lives and it is difficult to process the changes. We are here to support you through this time, and provide exceptional legal advice that allows you to create a new life for yourself and your family.
Don’t wait to hire a proper family law attorney, contact us via our website today.