Children and teens seem to have a never-ending list of needs and expenses. But some costs are higher than others. When you kids bills start to add up, you may wonder just how much basic child support is supposed to cover, and if there’s anything you can do to stretch that dollar further.
This blog post will review the extraordinary medical, child care, and educational expenses that are not included in Colorado’s basic child support guidelines. It will describe examples of when families may need to add in other expenses to cover the needs of their children including medical copays, private school tuition, and full-time child care costs, and how those costs will be divided between the parents.
What Does Colorado’s Basic Child Support Cover?
Like most states, child support in Colorado is calculated according to a formula set out in a statute, called the Colorado child support guidelines. Its purpose is to make sure that children in divorced or separated homes receive the same amount of financial support as they would if both parents lived together. The non-custodial parent or higher wage earner is generally required to pay money to the other parent to help pay for the child’s basic needs and expenses.
The guidelines aren’t based directly on a child’s documented needs. It isn’t as though one parent is paying a percentage of the other parent’s rent or utilities. Instead, the amount is calculated based on each parent’s gross income from all sources, the number of children each parent is supporting, and whether there is shared or split physical custody. That said, Colorado’s basic child support is intended to be enough, taken together with the payee’s own income, to help the child maintain the same standard of living as if his or her parents had never separated. That includes paying for:
- Housing costs (mortgage, rent, utilities)
- Groceries and food
- Clothing, school uniforms, shoes
- Personal hygiene
- Gifts, toys, and personal items
Basic child support continues until the child turns 19 years old, or up to age 21 if the child is still attending high school. If a child has a physical or mental disability and cannot support himself or herself, parents must continue to pay support even after the child is a legal adult.
What Isn’t Included in Colorado’s Basic Child Support Guidelines
As the custodial parent, the Colorado child support guidelines mean you don’t need to worry about itemizing all your child’s day-to-day expenses. But it can also mean that some bills are too big to be covered by basic child support. Before you agree to a child support number based on the guidelines, make sure you consider these extra expenses:
Health Insurance Copays and Coinsurance
Every Colorado child support order will include directions about which parent is required to provide health, dental, and optical insurance for the child. Basic child support does include an offset for these expenses. If you and your former spouse both receive insurance through your employment, it is in both parties’ best interest to compare notes on the costs and coverages available to both parties.
That includes what is not covered. Modern health insurance is a complicated web of coverages, caps, deductibles, and copays that can sometimes leave the customer paying thousands of dollars every year out of pocket. If you know your family has a high-deductible plan, or that a child’s medical needs could wrack up high copays, you and your family law attorney can bring these expenses to the court and adjust your child support order to account for those costs.
Child Care Expenses
For families with younger children or kids with disabilities, child care costs can be extremely expensive. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Colorado infant care is some of the most expensive in the nation, often outstripping the cost of in-state college tuition. According to a 2019 study, the average cost of infant care in Colorado is $1,277 per month, which is higher than the average cost of housing in the state.
Colorado state law allows you to receive child support for the reasonable cost of child care incurred because you are working or looking for work during your visitation. These costs are added to the basic child support guidelines, but only if you are able to document you are actually paying for them. If child care is provided by a family member or neighbor, the court might not award you child support for those costs.
Tuition and Extracurricular Activity Costs
These days, tight school budgets and increased popularity of extracurricular teams and clubs mean that even public school comes with a hefty price tag. On top of that, many parents choose to enroll their children in private or religious schools that align with their families’ beliefs and their child’s educational needs. Those educational expenses are not included in Colorado’s basic child support guidelines, but they can be divided between parents in proportion to their income as part of a child support order. If your child has ongoing educational costs, bring your tuition bill or proof of those expenses with you to court, so they can be included in the child support award.
When parents live far apart, the cost of transporting a child to exercise parenting time can add up quickly. When seeing your child comes with the cost of a plane ticket or multiple tanks of gas, or when one parent is providing all the transportation, you may be able to ask the court to order the other parent to pick up some of those costs. In these cases, providing reasonable proof of the expense is essential. The cost of holiday plane tickets is far different than the same flight on a Tuesday afternoon in June, for example. You and your attorney may need to get creative to establish the actual costs of providing transportation to be sure you receive appropriate adjustments to the Colorado basic child support guidelines.
Coming up with an appropriate child support award may seem like nothing more than math. But if you want a child support order that is correctly calculated to address your family’s real financial needs, you need to do more than complete a math problem. At Aviso Law, our experienced family law attorneys know how to prove your child’s expenses and argue for a fair child support award. We are here to serve you and your family. We will help you gather all the documentation you need to present your best case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.