Since the Colorado child support system is based on a calculation of parental incomes, factored in with the number of children, it is entirely possible to "trick" the system by underreporting income. This practice is particularly prevalent among self-employed individuals, such as contractors. But there is another type of person that can easily avoid paying support, and that is the underemployed parent.
While the local court system can implement measures to make that parent seek a better job, there is little it can do to force that upon them. In the interim, the custodial parent is left with little or no child support. Colorado child support officials might impute income to someone who is seemingly taking a lesser paying job as a way of shirking child support obligation. Imputing income is basically pretending that the party earns more than they actually do, and basing their child support on that instead of their real income. An extreme example of this is a chemical engineer who "chooses" to work at a gas station.
Termination of child support obligations in Colorado
While it may seem unfair a custodial parent that is paying far more than his or her share of expenses, a non-custodial parent gets to legally stop supporting his or her child upon their high school graduation, or when they turn 19, whichever comes first. This is true even for parents who still owe past-due support, but that parent will still be expected to pay off the arrears. Rare instances exist where child support is extended beyond the child's 19th birthday, but this is usually when the child is either physically or mentally incapable of supporting himself or herself.
If the parent of the emancipated child still owes support for another child, the original support order will continue unless it is modified by the Court. Some non-custodial parents will reduce it themselves, usually by half, rather than waiting for the Court to modify the order. This practice is ill-advised, as the support for the other child will not simply be half of the current order. In most cases, the court will need to recalculate the order for the other child, which will be retroactive to the older child's date of emancipation.
How Colorado college expenses are handled after divorce
In the past, Colorado divorce courts would allow child support to continue while a child was in full-time college, and would often order payment toward college expenses. However, after many legislative changes in the 90s, the Court no longer has the authority to order parents to pay toward college, unless the parents have voluntarily written such a provision into their parenting plan.
One exception to this rule is if the parents' divorce decree was adopted prior to July 1, 1997, which would then require college expenses be paid. While it is no longer enforceable as written, the Colorado family court still has the jurisdiction to order limited contributions toward tuition, books and fees until the child turns 21.
Better to walk away?
This may not be the most popular way to deal with a deadbeat parent, but some divorce experts advise clients to choose their battles. As disheartening as it is, if a parent is that resistant to supporting their children then it may be better to just let them off the hook rather than bringing them back to court. Unfortunately, these parents will usually find some excuse, or some loophole, that will allow them to continue underpaying their obligations.
The stress that these battles cause in families is often far-reaching and damaging to the children. Some parents simply choose to walk away and let the chips fall where they may, knowing that the welfare and well-being of their children is more important than winning a battle.
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