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What Does Child Support Cover

What Does Child Support Cover?

There are two types of expenses – basic and extraordinary. They cover different elements of the child’s everyday life and may be paid in different ways.

Child support is one of the main items to settle during any separation where children are involved.

It’s also one of the most contentious areas for separating couples in Colorado because feelings naturally run deep when the children are discussed.

According to statute, a child’s expenses must be met by the parents in proportion to their incomes until such time as that child is no longer considered “dependent”.

It helps to understand what child support is intended to cover and what the parents’ legal obligations are to their children after separation and divorce.

There are two types of expenses – basic and extraordinary. They cover different elements of the child’s everyday life and may be paid in different ways.

Basic expenses covered by child support

The basic child support expenses cover everything related to the child’s everyday needs and may include the following:

  • Food – weekly groceries, school lunches, etc.
  • Clothing – everyday clothing and school clothing
  • Housing – contribution to the monthly mortgage or rental/utility bills
  • Public school education – tuition fees
  • Transportation – bus fees, costs of dropping a child off to school or to the other parent, etc.
  • Health insurance and ordinary medical/dental expenses
  • Daycare costs – for parents who work

Colorado’s Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations will set the amount that will need to be paid under the child support agreement.

What are extraordinary expenses? 

Anything not included as a basic expense, but which still incurs costs for the parent with whom the child lives, is classified as an “extraordinary” expense. 

Parents are able to decide between themselves what constitutes a basic expense and an extraordinary expense.

Extraordinary expenses are normally included as a provision in the separation agreement and parenting plan.

Typically, these expenses include items like:

  • School supplies and additional school clothing
  • School excursions and activities
  • Extracurricular or private lessons
  • Summer camps
  • Any special clothing/equipment required (e.g. for sports activities)
  • Club or organization membership costs
  • Medical emergencies

If a child has special needs or a particular hobby or interest that incurs extra expenses, these “extraordinary” items may be added to the agreement by the parents.

Extraordinary expenses are generally paid separately and apart from basic child support when they arise. However, this arrangement requires that the parents are in regular communication with one another. Therefore, it can be more difficult to enforce than a basic child support obligation. 

Another way to settle these expenses is to estimate the costs over the course of a year, divide by 12, and arrive at a monthly sum that can be added to the basic support amount in proportion to the parents’ incomes. 

In this case, the amount will be added to the child support worksheet and will be relatively simple for the courts to enforce.

Have questions about child support? Submit a free case evaluation to our attorneys or give us a call at 720.594.7360.

Extraordinary medical expenses

Extraordinary medical expenses must be addressed in child support orders. These expenses are any uninsured medical/dental/mental health expenses over $250 per year per child (the first $250 is considered in the basic child support) and may include the costs of:

  • Dental work (e.g., braces)
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery
  • Optical care (glasses, contacts, etc.)
  • Other uninsured chronic health problems
  • Professional counselling or psychiatric treatment

Again, these expenses are typically paid when they arise, but  parents can agree to add them to the basic support obligation by averaging them monthly and dividing in proportion to the parents’ adjusted incomes. 

Change in child support payments 

Based upon the expected expenses and the specific financial circumstances of each parent, the court will determine a child support amount to be paid by one parent to the other until the child is no longer considered dependent.

While this amount will need to be paid (usually monthly) and can be enforced by law, the family law system in Colorado recognizes that parental circumstances can change, as well as the needs of the child.

For instance, you may lose your job or the other parent may get demoted or promoted. Alternatively, the child may start spending more time with the other parent, increasing their time commitment and level of responsibility.

In such cases, you can apply to the court for post-decree modifications to be made to the child support agreement, reflecting your change of circumstances.

However, you will need to show that your change in circumstances results in at least a 10-percent increase or decrease in child support from the original order. 

Modifications never happen automatically. Speak to one of our divorce lawyers if you feel that a change to child support is warranted in your case.

Questions about child support?

Child support in Colorado can be a complex matter that regularly causes disputes.

Now you know what child support covers, you should be in a better position to understand your parental obligations and to arrive at an arrangement that is agreeable to both parents.

The experienced divorce attorneys at Colorado Legal Group in Denver can help, start with a free case evaluation or give us a call at 720.594.7360.