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How to File for Child Support

How to File for Child Support

To begin a child support case, a county child support office in Colorado requires an application, which can be submitted online or in person. They can then help you establish a child support order (and paternity, if required).

When marriages and relationships end, the question of how to financially support the upbringing of the children is a paramount concern. Food, housing, clothing, education, transport, and medical expenses don’t pay for themselves, after all. As well as these basic needs, there are sports, leisure, and recreational activities to be funded.

Child support allows for these needs to be met equitably with both parents taking their fair share of the responsibility, as required under Colorado law.

If you are looking to apply for child support in Colorado, the information outlined below tells you what you need to know.

The first step towards child support: establishing paternity

Before a child support order can be granted by the courts, the parents of the child must be confirmed. In the case of the mother, this usually presents no problems. However, if you were not married at the time of the birth of the child (or never married but had a child), this can add complexity to the process of filing for child support.

If you and the baby’s father signed an “Acknowledgement of Paternity”, this will be sufficient to prove paternity to the court. It becomes a legal finding of paternity 60 days after being signed.

If no acknowledgement of paternity was signed, there are two other options available to establish paternity:

  1. Ask the child’s father to voluntarily admit to paternity
  2. Ask a court to order the father to submit to genetic testing 

With the second option, the results will be presented to a judge, who will then make a ruling on who the father of the child is.

If you were married at the time of the birth but are now going through a separation or divorce, the court presumes that your husband is the father of the child. Child support and other parental responsibilities (parenting time and decision-making responsibility) will be addressed through the legal separation or divorce process. 

If there is no dispute about paternity, even if the parties are not married, either party can file an action for allocation of parental responsibilities. That action will address not only child support, but parenting time and decision-making responsibility for the child(ren). 

Once the parents of the child have been confirmed, the amount of child support must be calculated.

How do you calculate child support in Colorado?

To calculate child support, you will need to refer to Colorado’s child support guidelines. These include a mathematical formula that takes into account how much time each parent spends with the child, additional costs beyond basic living expenses, and the gross income of each parent. Gross income includes tips, overtime, pensions, workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits, as well as wages or salary. The purpose of these guidelines is to create consistency across the state for support awards though they may not apply where incomes are either very low or very high.

Under Colorado law, children are entitled to a share of each parent’s income to cover their needs as they grow up. Parents must take an proportionate share of the financial responsibility for raising their children whether or not they remain together.

Being unemployed or under-employed intentionally to avoid paying child support will not work as the Colorado courts can base their child support calculations on what each parent could be earning. Doing such (basing child support on what a parent could earn rather than what they actually earn) is called imputation of income. 

In most cases in Colorado, both parents are afforded at least some parenting time with the child. The amount of time each parent spends with the child will be taken into account by the court when the final calculation is made. In most cases, payments continue until the child turns 19 or is “emancipated” i.e. the child marries or enters military service.

If you would like to speak with a Colorado attorney, submit a free case evaluation to our attorneys or give us a call at 720.594.7360.

How do you apply for child support?

Once the amount of child support has been calculated, you can begin the process of applying for support and obtaining the necessary court order.

This can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Through the Colorado Child Support Services (CSS) Program, which is managed through the Colorado Office of Economic Security
  2. By filing a child support order with the court through your child support attorney

To begin a child support case, a county child support office in Colorado requires an application, which can be submitted online or in person. They can then help you establish a child support order (and paternity, if required).

The court order will detail the amount of child support that the payor parent must pay and when the payments need to be made.

Both parents will receive a copy of the order, which is legally enforceable. The Colorado Child Support Enforcement Portal provides information on this.

Each parent must keep the Department of Human Services updated with current employment and contact information so that payments can be tracked.

Can child support orders be changed?

It may be possible to request a modification to an existing child support order (either increasing or decreasing the amount) but only if there is a substantial change in financial circumstances for either parent.

The change of circumstances must be shown to make the terms of the existing order unfair. This is generally understood to mean that the changes would result in at least a 10 percent difference to the current child support under the guidelines. Such a change could be a significant raise for one parent, a job loss or redundancy, or increased medical costs for the child necessitating higher payments. The court will decide if a parent’s new circumstances justify the modification of the existing child support order.

Whether you want to apply for child support, modify an existing order or need advice on how to enforce an order, it can be confusing without the help of a seasoned lawyer. If you would like legal help, submit a free case evaluation to our attorneys or give us a call at 720.594.7360.