If you are getting divorced or legally separated and you have children, chances are your divorce attorneys will be speaking with you about determining child support payments. Child support is designed to help with a variety of expenses that occur while raising children. Some of these expenses include school tuition, medical expenses, and extracurricular activities such as sports or clubs.
All 50 states, including Colorado, have legally established child support guidelines that are used to help determine the amount of support a parent may be obligated to pay. When reaching this financial determination, courts consider a variety of factors including a parent’s income, the child’s financial needs, and the amount of financial assistance required to maintain the child’s current standard of living.
Here are a few of the most common ways that child support helps children:
1. Covering basic necessities
All children need food, clothing, and a safe place to live. Child support can be used for groceries and meals as well as shoes and appropriate clothing for school, play, and recreation. Additionally, child support may be used to help pay for the the costs of shelter, such as rent and utility bills.
2. Addressing medical costs and uninsured medical expenses
Most states require divorced or legally separated parents to have health insurance for their children or child. Often, a parent with employee-covered health benefits will be the one required to provide medical insurance. However, there are times when uninsured or out-of-pocket medical expenses may be incurred. In those circumstances, child support may be used. Examples may includes dental braces, eyeglasses or contact lenses, and other costs associated with a pre-existing medical condition.
3. Providing for education
Even if a child is attending public school, education is not free of costs. Child support may be used for school-related items, such as clothes or uniforms, textbooks, lunch money, and tutors.
4. Covering child care
Child support may be used to cover child care expenses throughout the year. Child care expenses include the use of daycare, babysitters, or nannies, and may also include the cost of child care during summer months and school holidays.
5. Allowing for transportation
Child support may be used to pay for transporting your children to school, their various activities, and appointments. This can include the costs necessary to maintain a car, or ride a bus or as well as the cost associated with travelling to visit the non-custodial parent and their family.
6. Engaging in entertainment and extracurricular activities
Child support may be used for age-appropriate entertainment such as computers, games, movies… as agreed upon between both parents. The same applies to extracurricular activities happening outside of school. This category may include summer camp, sports activities or clubs, as well as music lessons or art programs.
7. Defraying college expenses
Many states uphold that a child’s education should not be diminished because of their parents’ divorce or separation. These states typically require noncustodial parents to contribute to the child’s college costs, even if they have reached the age of majority, until they had graduated.
For those filing for divorce or legal separation in the state of Colorado, which includes the Northern Colorado county of Larimer and the City of Fort Collins, the court system now offers online software that provides child support calculations. The website also makes available child support worksheet and other important information for child support agreements made after January 1, 2014. Click here to visit the website for information on child support in Fort Collins and Colorado.
In addition, the Colorado Child Support Services Program also provides information and resources to family members wanting to understand more about Colorado’s child support regulations, parental responsibilities, and how to go about enforcing obligations.
While the courts determine the essential financial needs of a child as part of the divorce proceedings, if a child’s needs change, or if there is a change in a parent’s circumstances (loss of employment, medical emergency…), filing paperwork to modify the existing child support agreement may be necessary.
The requirement to pay child support should not be perceived as a punishment but as a responsibility to ensure that the children in the family have what is required to live in a safe and comfortable environment. Parents who fall behind in child support payments without properly addressing their change in financial circumstance through the courts run the risk of legal hardships in addition to damaging their child’s livelihood as a result of not receiving the financial support they deserve.