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How does shared custody affect child support?

Brooke Zellner

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Child support is financial payment from a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent to provide monetary aid in the care and upbringing of children under 19, still in high school, or disabled.

Child support is awarded in Colorado based on what the statute calls the Income Shares Model. This model is used to calculate child support payments based on the gross income of both parents, the number of children supported, and the time spent in each parent's home. The model is designed to ensure the child receives the same proportion of parental income they would have received had their parents lived together.

In Colorado, all legal parents are obligated to support their children. This concept results in child support being required of all parents, even those who share custody. Now when one parent is determined to be the custodial parent, meaning they have primary physical custody, it is assumed that that parent's child support obligations are already being used on the child. That is why the custodial parent is not obligated to pay the non-custodial parent child support.

However, when the parents share custody, the calculation is not as simple as the non-custodial parent paying full child support to the custodial parent. In Colorado, if the child stays at least 93 nights with each parent, the parents have shared custody of the child. Although the parents are said to have shared custody, Colorado courts want to ensure that the child's basic needs are fully met. To make sure the child is fully supported, the parent with the least amount of nights spent with the child is determined to be the non-custodial parent. This does not mean that the non-custodial parent has to pay full child support, though. Credit is given to the non-custodial parent based on the number of nights the child stays over with the non-custodial parent. The more nights the child is with the non-custodial parent, the less child support the non-custodial parent has to pay the custodial parent. Because credit is only given in shared custody cases, the child must stay with the non-custodial parent for 93 nights or more. When the child stays with both parents equally, about 182 nights each, the higher earner pays child support to the lower earner. Only if the child stays with both parents equally and both parents have the same income is no child support required of either parent.

Contact our Colorado child support attorneys today to learn your rights.

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