Beginning July 1, 2020, there are several updated changes to the child support statute that are going to go into effect. The Colorado Child Support Statute is contained within C.R.S. §14-10-114.
For most parties that are mediating, going through the divorce process, or who are already divorced, that read this, these updates will not have a significant impact on future modifications or existing support orders. This post is going to discuss the changes related to the imputation of income in several specific arenas, mandatory school expenses, and uninsured medical expenses as set forth below.
The courts have the authority to find a party, in the cases where maintenance and child support are at issue, to be either voluntarily underemployed or voluntarily unemployed and impute or assign them an income figure for the purposes of support calculations. This situation can apply to someone who elects to only work part time or perhaps to an individual who used to work a six-figure salary job and quit to work a lower-paying hourly job.
Unemployment/Underemployment Factors. The court has now created a list of factors that they will look at specifically to determine if a parent is voluntary unemployed or underemployed for the purposes of child support calculations. They include parent’s assets, residence, employment and earnings history, job skills, educational attainment, literacy, age, health, criminal record, other employment barriers, record of seeking work, the local job market, the availability of employers hiring in the community, prevailing earnings level in the local community, and any other relevant background factors in the case.
Since these factors are newly implemented, we do not have case law to see how the majority of courts are interpreting, giving weight to, and ruling, it is important for you to discuss any concerns you may have regarding income calculations with an attorney.
There are specific exceptions delineated by the court where based upon the circumstances surrounding a particular party, they will not find them to be voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. Specifically:
Caring for a Young Child. If you are a parent caring for a joint child up to the age of 24 months, you cannot be imputed income for purposes of child support calculations.
When a Parent is Incarcerated. If you are a parent who has been incarcerated, you cannot be imputed income for a sentence that is 6 months or longer for purposes of child support calculations.
If a Parent is enrolled in an Education Program. You cannot be considered underemployed if you are enrolled in a full time educational or vocational program or are employed part-time while enrolled part-time in an education or vocational program. For the part-time enrollment, there are additional criteria that must be met in order to ensure you cannot be considered underemployed for the purposes of child support calculations.
The statute now includes clarification regarding two topics that are often in dispute for post-decree parents.
Mandatory School Expenses. The courts are defining what the additional costs to be divided between the parties (either per agreement or their adjusted gross incomes) are for minor children related to mandatory school fees. These are fees charged by the school or school district (including a charter school), including but not limited to laboratory fees, books or educational materials fees, school computers, testing fees, and supply fees paid to the school. Please note that these do not include uniforms, meals, extracurricular fees, AP tests and costs, and mandatory home-schooling fees.
Uninsured Medical Expenses for Near-Equal Parenting Time. The Colorado Court of Appeals, through In re the Marriage of Alvis, has ruled that each parent bears the responsibility of paying for the first $250.00 of uninsured medical expenses per child per year respectively before they can then seek reimbursement from the other parent. The idea behind this ruling was that there would be less bickering between the parties, but now each party is going to be responsible for their own record keeping which could result in more arguments or conflicts. We encourage you to speak with your attorney regarding ways to address this specifically in your settlement agreements.
At Conscious Family Law & Mediation, we know how difficult and overwhelming these complex legal issues can be. It is why we strive to be up to date on all of the statutory law changes that occur, to provide the most accurate information to our clients.