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Fathers and Families

Colorado Child Support Commission
Pursuing Changes
October 19, 2012
Top Story
Colorado Child Support Commission Pursuing Changes
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director,
Fathers and Families


Colorado Child Support
The Colorado Child Support Commission is pursuing legislation in 2013 to update the guidelines. The legislation being recommended is the result of the work of the Child Support Commission that was convened in September 2009 and completed its review in December 2010.

The Colorado Child Support Commission is charged with conducting a review of the child support guidelines at least every four years. According to Colorado law, the Commission must consider economic data on the cost of raising children and other related issues. Colorado is one of thirty-seven states that uses the income shares model made popular by Jane C. Venohr, PhD, Senior Researcher at the Center for Policy Research.

At this point in the process, it appears the only way for you to present your opinion is to contact your own senator and representative. Please let Fathers and Families know if you speak with your senator or representative.

It appears that the Child Support Commission recommendations will provide some relief for low income parents. One way is by raising the combined gross monthly income for paying the minimum in child support from $850 to $1,100. On the other side, parents with multiple children will most probably see an increase in their obligations with the proposed guidelines. In addition, the Commission is seeking to clarify that a child support order can be established retroactively to correspond to a change in the physical care of the child.

As to the makeup and duties of the Commission, the Child Support Commission is recommending to the legislature that the Commission’s scope of work be limited to the child support guidelines and not include other issues. It also is giving the Governor the sole responsibility for naming members to the Commission and is recommending changes in the makeup of the Commission. Currently, the speaker of the house and the senate president each appoints one person. The strong recommendations for the Governor naming representatives from the judiciary and the bar association, Child Support Enforcement, and Department of Social Services remain. This recommendation changes the importance of parent repreesentatves. Currently, it is strongly recommended that parents – female custodial, female noncustodial, male custodial, male noncustodial, and joint custodial parents, as well as parents of intact families participate. With this recommendation, the Commission says the Governor MAY include parent representatives. Obviously, this is not as important as having the professionals at the table.

Following is the summary of the Commission’s review and the recommendations it made to the governor and legislature. This is the basis for the proposed legislation. The full report details the recommendations and provides the proposed legislation.

Update of the Schedule of Basic Support Obligations:
The Commission reviewed the results of numerous studies on the costs of raising children and recommends updating the “Schedule” that is the starting point for all child support order calculations. The Schedule and related child support statutes should reflect current economic factors such as income and expenses of the parents and, where appropriate, of the child. Changes that have occurred in a number of areas such as the cost of raising children, cost of living for a family, taxes, housing, and others require an updated Schedule.


Update of the Low-Income Adjustment and Minimum Order Formulae and Criteria:
In connection with updating the Schedule, the Commission is recommending adjustments to provisions that address low-income parents. This adjustment to the child support obligation is necessary to ensure that a child support order is fair and is based on a parent’s ability to pay. The Commission recommends increasing the threshold for the application of both formulae and an adjustment to the calculation of the low-income adjustment formula to match the increase in the threshold for the minimum order application. On balance, and in recognition of the costs of raising multiple children, the Commission also is recommending that the minimum order, which is currently a fixed amount of $50 per month regardless of the number of children on the order, be revised to incrementally increase by $20 per month for each additional child on the order.


Revising the Definition of “Gross Income”:
The Commission is recommending three revisions to the definition of gross income that is used in the formula to calculate the basic support obligation. The first reformation addresses inconsistencies relating to self-employed obligors and obligors who are employees of closely held corporations. The second addresses the treatment of distributions to passive investors of certain partnerships and companies. Finally, the Commission is recommending that the statute clarify that earnings and gains from investment accounts that are not taken and for which no internal revenue service (IRS) penalty applies, are not considered gross income.


Addressing the Application of Lump-Sum Social Security Benefits to Child Support Arrears:
The award of social security benefits can often be delayed resulting in the accrual of arrears and other consequences. The Commission is recommending that any arrears owed by an obligor that accrued while he/she was disabled or retired be reduced by the amount of any lump sum past due befit payments that is received by the custodial party based on the disability or retirement of the obligor.


Providing for the Retroactive Establishment of a Child Support Order When There Has Been an Agreed Upon Post-Order Change of Physical Care of a Child:
Current law provides that after an order is established, if the parties agreed to a change in physical care of the child, the obligor on the current order can be relieved of any financial obligations back to the date physical care changed. However, courts have interpreted the statute differently in these situations regarding the retroactive establishment of a child support order against the new non-custodial party. The Commission is recommending that the law be made clear that a child support order can be established retroactively in these cases.


Recommending that the statutory duties of the Commission be revised:
The Commission has reviewed certain issues outlined in statute and determined, as prior Commissions did, that those issues are not appropriate to be addressed by the Child Support Commission. These issues include (1) whether child support judgments should arise automatically if current support is not paid on time (this is required by federal regulation and the state has no discretion in this matter), (2) issues relating to children born out of wedlock and (3) preventing teen pregnancies. The Commission lacks the expertise and resources to properly address these issues and suggests they be deleted from the list of matters addressed by the Commission.


In addition to your senator and representative, you may wish to speak with the members of the Child Support Commission, 2009-2011, recommending these changes. They are:
Pam Hennessey, President
John Bernhart
Pauline Burton
Christina Eigel
Brian Field
Lenore Fox
Maureen Leif
Honorable Elizabeth Leith
Honorable Kara Martin
Lynn Renick
Senator Paula Sandoval
Gina Weitzenkorn
Robert Wonnett
Yvonne Zuber
Robert Kurtz, Advisory to the Commission and Subject Matter Expert
Anna Sandoval, Assistant to the Commission


Current Colorado Child Support Guidelines

Following are other documents you may find helpful in learning more about the Colorado Child Support Guidelines.

A Parent’s Guide to Child Support (Please note that the “Parent’s” guide features photos of fathers in discussing paying child support and how to establish your paternity.)

Colorado Child Support Guideline,
Revised January 2011


Colorado Child Support Enforcement,
Annual Report 2011


Colorado Child Support Enforcement Program,
Strategic Plan 2011-2013


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Mission
Fathers and Families improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting the child’s right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.



Vision
Fathers and Families’ vision is a society in which:
  • Children are happier and more successful because their loving bonds are protected after parental separation or divorce:

  • Children have a natural right to be nurtured and guided by both parents:

  • Society treats fathers and mothers as equally important to the wellbeing of their children:

  • Shared parenting after separation or divorce is the norm:

  • The courts arrange finances after separation or divorce so that both mothers and fathers can afford to house and care for their children and themselves: and

  • Our society understands and respects the essential role of fathers.


Core Principles
Our core principles are:
  • Shared Parenting: Shared parenting protects children’s best interests and the loving bonds children share with both parents after separation or divorce.

  • Parental Equality: Equality between genders has been extended to every corner of American society, with one huge exception: family courts and the related agencies.

  • Respect for Human and Property Rights: The Supreme Court of the United States has found that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children... is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

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