How Child Support & Maintenance Is Calculated in Colorado


Child Support in ColoradoChild support is the right of the child. The amount of child support and maintenance to be paid is largely influenced by the gross incomes of each parent and the number of overnights each parent has with the child(ren). However, there are additional factors that affect the amount of child support and maintenance to be paid, such as daycare costs, health care/insurance, extraordinary expenses, and much more. A Fort Collins child support lawyer can help clients calculate these costs and build a case around the best possible option.

The gross income of each parent is defined broadly to include many factors, with a limited number of exclusions. When a parent is unemployed or underemployed, that parent may be imputed an income for purposes of determining their gross income for calculating child support and maintenance . When a parent is unemployed or underemployed, the services of a vocational evaluator should be considered to help in determining what that parent’s earning potential is.

Child support and maintenance can be modified anytime there is a continuing change in circumstances that would warrant a 10% change in child support and maintenance to be paid. Common changes that would warrant a modification of child support and maintenance include: change in employment/income of either parent, change in parenting time, and/or a change in the needs of the child. Hiring a Fort Collins child support lawyer to assist you through these transactions is an excellent decision.

The effective date of a modification of child support can be either: the date of the filing of a motion to modify child support, the date of an agreed-upon change in custody, or the date of any court order affecting parenting time.

Child support and maintenance is to be paid until the child emancipates or reaches the age of 19 years old in Colorado. However, child support can be ordered past the age of 19 (most commonly for college expenses), but only if the parents agree to such; without agreement of the parties, the court cannot order such. When one parent fails to pay child support as ordered by the court, the parent to whom child support is to be paid can pursue many options to enforce the child support order, including seeking a judgment on unpaid amounts to include interest of 12% a year compounded monthly, contempt of court, an award of attorney fees, and much more.

Gross income includes
  • Income from salaries;
  • Wages, including tips declared by the individual for purposes of reporting to the federal internal revenue service or tips imputed to bring the employee’s gross earnings to the minimum wage for the number of hours worked, whichever is greater;
  • Commissions;
  • Payments received as an independent contractor for labor or services, which payments must be considered income from self-employment;
  • Bonuses;
  • Dividends;
  • Severance pay;
  • Pensions and retirement benefits paid;
  • Royalties;
  • Rents;
  • Interest;
  • Trust income;
  • Annuities;
  • Capital gains;
  • Any moneys drawn by a self-employed individual for personal use that is deducted as a business expense, which money must be considered income from self-employment;
  • Social security benefits, including social security benefits actually received by a parent as a result of the disability of that parent or as the result of the death of the minor child’s stepparent but not including social security benefits received by a minor child or on behalf of a minor child as a result of the death or disability of a stepparent of the child;
  • Workers’ compensation benefits;
  • Unemployment insurance benefits;
  • Disability insurance benefits;
  • Funds held in or payable from any health, accident, disability, or casualty insurance to the extent that such insurance replaces wages or provides income in lieu of wages;
  • Monetary gifts;
  • Monetary prizes, excluding lottery winnings not required by the rules of the Colorado lottery commission to be paid only at the lottery office;
  • Income from general partnerships, limited partnerships, closely-held corporations, or limited liability companies. However, if a parent is a passive investor, has a minority interest in the company, and does not have any managerial duties or input, then the income to be recognized may be limited to actual cash distributions received.
  • Expense reimbursements or in-kind payments received by a parent in the course of employment, self-employment, or operation of a business if they are significant and reduce personal living expenses;
  • Alimony or maintenance received; and
  • Overtime pay, only if the overtime is required by the employer as a condition of employment.


Gross income does not include

  • Child support payments received;
  • Benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs, including but not limited to assistance provided under the Colorado works program, as described in part 7 of article 2 of title 26, C.R.S., supplemental security income, food stamps, and general assistance;
  • Income from additional jobs that result in the employment of the obligor more than 40 hours per week or more than what would otherwise be considered to be full-time employment;
  • Social security benefits received by the minor children, or on behalf of the minor children, as a result of the death or disability of a stepparent are not to be included as income for the minor children for the determination of child support; and
  • Earnings or gains on a retirement account, including an IRA, which earnings or gains must not be included as income unless or until a parent takes a distribution from the account. If a distribution from a retirement account may be taken without being subject to an IRS penalty for early distribution and the parent decides not to take the distribution, the court may consider the distribution that could have been taken in determining the parent’s gross income if the parent is not otherwise employed full-time and the retirement account was not received pursuant to the division of marital property.

Unemployed or Underemployed

If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support and maintenance shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income – except that a determination of potential income shall not be made for a parent who is physically or mentally incapacitated or is caring for a child under the age of 30 months for whom the parents owe a joint legal responsibility or for an incarcerated parent sentenced to one year or more.

For the purposes of calculating child support and maintenance, a parent shall not be deemed “underemployed” if:

  • The employment is temporary and is reasonably intended to result in higher income within the foreseeable future;
  • The employment is a good faith career choice that is not intended to deprive a child of support and does not unreasonably reduce the support available to a child;
  • The parent is enrolled in an educational program that is reasonably intended to result in a degree or certification within a reasonable period of time and that will result in a higher income, so long as the educational program is a good faith career choice that is not intended to deprive the child of support and that does not unreasonably reduce the support available to a child.

To learn more about how child support and maintenance is calculated in Colorado and to discuss how much you may receive or have to pay with a Fort Collins child support lawyer, contact The Cossitt Law Firm to speak with one of our knowledgeable family lawyers.

Due to Covid-19, your safety is our main concern. We offer remote consultations, call us at (970) 488-1887 to schedule a free consultation today.

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