Colorado Child Support Laws: What's Covered?

In Colorado, divorcing parents are directed by statute to divide between them all the expenses of their children in proportion to their incomes. There are two categories of expenses to which this proportion applies: basic and extraordinary.

1 - Basic Expenses

Basic expenses include things like:

  • Housing
  • Basic food
  • Basic clothing

And may include other items such as:

  • Regular transportation
  • School lunches
  • Ordinary medical and dental expenses
  • Allowances
  • Other customary expenses which the parents expressly include.

Colorado’s Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations sets this amount. Your choice is how many of your child’s expenses you believe are included in this amount. What is not included is said to be an extraordinary expense. The legislature recognizes that the cost of raising children is not limited to those items covered by the basic child support obligation.

2 - Extraordinary Expenses

Extraordinary expenses are those beyond the basic. These expenses are set by the parents, and should be delineated in the Separation Agreement and Parenting Plan.

Some typical expenses beyond basic needs for school age children, for example, are:

  • School supplies
  • School trips and activities
  • Additional school clothing
  • Lessons
  • Special clothing and equipment
  • Organization fees and costs

Gifted and talented children or special needs children are usually more expensive. Parents may choose to handle the additional expenses in various ways. Some parents agree to deal with additional expenses as they come up. Some estimate the expenses, arrive at a monthly average, and add this average monthly amount to the basic support. If they choose to make them part of the monthly support payment, it would be listed on the appropriate child support worksheet.

If extraordinary expenses are listed on the worksheet: that expense is a fixed amount, it requires the parents to share it proportional to their incomes, and it is easier to enforce.

Any extra expense not listed on the worksheet: can be shared in any proportion the parents agree upon, can be shared as the cost is incurred (not a fixed amount monthly), requires on-going communication between the parties, and is not as easy to enforce.

Most parents include in their agreement a clause to the effect that any extraordinary expense for their children which is not on the worksheet must be agreed to by both parents ahead of time (except emergencies), and divided in a certain percentage.