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The 3 models used to determine child support guidelines

Divorces happen regularly in the united states, as do the creation of child custody determinations and, thus, base child support guidelines.

When determining the base amount, states use one of three models: the percentage of income model, the income shares model, and the Melson Formula.

Percentage of income model

This model only takes into account the income of the non-custodial parent to come up with child support and is used in one of two formats: flat percentage or varying percentage. The term “base” is used because the parent’s often pay additional funds to assist in covering child care services or medical needs. 

The flat percentage variation determines child support payments by a fixed percentage no matter the income of the parent. As an example, let’s say the state’s fixed percentage is 14%. If the non-custodial parent made $3,000 per month, his base child support payment would be $420/month.

The varying percentage formula applies a different percentage to each level of income. As one would assume, the higher one’s income, the higher percentage to determine payment would apply. Percentages and variation choice differ by state.

Income shares model

The income shares model, practiced by forty states, including Colorado, figure out base child support by including both parent’s income. This formula allows the child to benefit from the percentage of income they would receive if the parents were still together.

  1. Both parents bring home a combined $6,000 per month
  2. The state’s statutory table indicates a percentage of 17%, which equals $1,012.
  3. Expenses, based on circumstance, for child care and medical services (if applicable), are added to the base payment. For this example, let’s use a round figure of $100. The child support total is now $1,112
  4. The non-custodial parent must pay 66.6% of this total, or roughly $740.59/month
  5. The custodial parent would be in charge of proving the remaining 33.3% of the support amount, or approximately $370.30/month.

The Melson Formula

The final model is a hybrid of the two previous models and only used by three states: Deleware, Hawaii and Montana. The Melson Formula looks out for the base-needs of the parent before determining the child support payments.

The main two principles of this formula are:

  1. The entitlement of each parent to keep enough of their income to support their essential needs and continue employment
  2. Any income above the scope of securing basic necessities for the parent and child will be included in child support calculation
  3. The child is now entitled to benefit from the non-custodial parent’s additional income

Divorces happen

No matter which formula your state uses to determine custody payments, it can lead to financial hardship or, at minimum, another thing to add to your budget. In a divorce case, you want a favorable result. An experienced family law attorney will work toward guidng your case in the right direction.

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