The first thing that you would ask your lawyer is what would the formula says, because we have a formula here in Colorado for child support. The very first thing is to sit down with your attorney and go over what are the things that go into that formula, and at least estimate what those would be, and then come up with a bottom line of who would owe who what in child support.
The second thing you should consider is if there are parts of that formula that you might be in disagreement about. Let’s talk about what some of the basic are that you would be in disagreement about. The first is that the child support formula has you put the gross income of both parties. What’s gross income? That’s something you could be arguing about. If you’re a W2 employee, it’s less arguable. You’ve got a W2 that shows with your gross salary is. If you have overtime, does overtime go into it? If it’s not required overtime, it doesn’t. Is there overtime? Is it easy to determine what the gross salary is? If somebody owns their own business it’s going to be a little more difficult. It’s easy to hide money in a business; it’s done all the time. It’s a little bit more difficult to come up with the gross amount for someone who owns a business.
The second thing would be the parenting time. What else goes into the formula is overnights with the child. How many overnights a year does each parent have with the child? That’s another thing that could be easily argued. Is that something you’ve come to an agreement on already or is that in dispute? When you first talk to an attorney about child support you’re going to have to estimate or maybe do a couple of different formulas. What is the parenting time going to look like? Ultimately, if you can’t come to agreement on that, then that’s something that would have to be determined by a court.
A third thing that goes in is who’s going to pay the medical insurance for the child? That might be something again that’s in disagreement, but that’s something that goes into the formula as well. Maintenance is something else that goes into the formula. I’ll talk about that in just a minute.
The third factor is when does child support end. That’s something you would want to talk to your attorney about. If you have a 15 year old, let’s say, how long am I going to get child support? Child support goes until 19 years of age or until they’re out of high school. You might have a child who’s 19 and still in high school. Then you’re still going to have child support until they graduate from high school. If they’re 18 and they’re out of high school and they’re in their first year of college, you’re still paying child support until they’re 19. That’s the law here in Colorado. The last thing on age is that if the child has special needs or they have a mental disability, child support might go beyond 19 years, but it’s very specific to the circumstances and we would need to discuss that further.
It’s very important when you’re deciding on child support to know whether the parenting plan, the number of overnights, is a realistic parenting plan or whether it’s a parenting plan that’s based on wanting to spend less. My recommendation is that you be very clear that it is realistic that the parent that is saying they want 50/50 custody is really able to do 50/50 custody. Otherwise, you’re in a situation where you have to go back and modify child support later, which costs money to do. Why not be realistic up front with parenting and making sure those overnights are realistic overnights?
The last thing is how does maintenance affect child support. That’s number five: how does maintenance affect child support? Maintenance is our form of alimony. It is support for the spouse, not for the children. Child support is for the children; maintenance is for the spouse. However, if you are paying maintenance or getting maintenance, that maintenance is added into the child support formula, so you will get less child support if you’re getting maintenance. Why would that matter? Money’s money.
It does matter in a couple of ways. Number one, maintenance is tax-deductible to the person paying the maintenance. It is taxable to the person receiving maintenance. Child support has no tax consequences. Let’s say you’re the person receiving it. Money you get from child support won’t be taxed; you’ll get the full amount. Money you get from maintenance will be taxed; you won’t get the full amount. Even though you won’t get the full amount of maintenance, the full amount of maintenance goes into the child support formula. It’s important to understand the dynamic between those two, and when you’re making your decisions on settling a case for maintenance and child support, that you’ve taken all of these things into consideration and you don’t do it blindly. It’s something that should be discussed with your lawyer. For more information about filing for divorce, how divorce works, or any other family law matters in Colorado, call us at 303-329-3802.