Child support payments can be a significant financial obligation for a divorced parent, which is why it’s no surprise that some go to great lengths to avoid paying it. One tactic, sometimes used by non-custodial fathers, is to try to gain custody of the child so that they would have to pay less (or zero) child support to the other parent.
Does this tactic work in Colorado? What can you do if you suspect that your ex-spouse is fighting you for child custody only so that he doesn’t have to pay child support? Let’s examine some facts, myths, and scenarios.
Debunking Misconceptions About Child Custody And Support
It is a myth that gaining child custody automatically means minimizing child support obligations.
In Colorado, the only time a parent is not required to pay child support is when they have sole physical custody of the child – that is, if the court decides that the child stays with them full-time. This is a rare arrangement to begin with, because family courts typically aim to grant joint custody between parents whenever appropriate. Sole physical custody is usually reserved for exceptional cases such as those involving child abuse or neglect.
When one parent does have sole physical custody, the non-custodial parent has to pay monthly support for the child’s living expenses. Even then, both parents may still be required to share other child-related costs outside of the support order, especially if these expenses are disputed in court.
What if both parents are granted joint physical custody? In this common scenario, child support is typically split between the parents and calculated using various factors, primarily their individual incomes. Another important factor in the computation is the number of overnights each parent has with the child. According to Colorado law, your child support obligation will incrementally decrease if you are granted 93 overnights or more with your young one each year.
What happens if both parents have an equal number of overnight visits? In a 50-50 arrangement, where each parent has 182.5 overnight visits every year, it is possible that neither would have to pay child support. However, this can only happen if both parents have similar incomes – their computation would render similar amounts of obligation that would cancel each other out.
The more likely scenario is that one parent has a larger income than the other, and this parent will have to pay child support based on that income. In other words, just because your ex-spouse manages to gain some physical custody of your child does not mean they will get a decrease on their support obligation. Their income – and yours – will still be a bigger factor in the computation.
What To Do When Dad Pursues Custody To Avoid Child Support
Given the scenarios discussed above, it’s only normal for a divorced parent to fear that their ex-spouse is trying to dodge support obligations by gaining child custody. This tactic can occur during the divorce process itself, but it’s also unsurprising for some “deadbeat dads” to show up after several years and suddenly fight for child custody.
Family court judges encounter schemes like this quite often, and they are not misled so easily. Still, you want to be ready. Here are tips on how to prepare for this situation and make your custody case stronger.
- Keep evidence of you as the child’s primary caretaker. The primary caretaker is the adult who provides majority of care for the child. Gather documents related to child care such as school reports and medical records showing you as parent. Write down your child’s daily routine and what your tasks are in this routine. Document your child’s specific concerns such as allergies, bathing or grooming regimen, and hobbies.
- Keep all evidence of other parent avoiding responsibility. Screen-cap text or email conversations of how your ex-spouse was often absent or missed important dates in your child’s life. Document any child support payments that he missed to make.
- Gain support from others. Other adults in your child’s daily life may be able to support your custody claim. Establish good relationships with the young one’s grandparents, teachers, doctors, and daycare attendants.
- Expect changes in the parenting plan. It is unlikely that an absentee dad will be granted sole physical custody. But in a joint custody case, the court may decide that your ex-spouse can spend more time with the child. He may be granted more overnights, weekends, or summer weeks, perhaps gradually. Consider this as you anticipate potential changes in child support payments.
- Consult a lawyer. This is the wisest approach when trying to protect your child from an adverse custodial arrangement. Talk to a family law attorney about why you believe your ex-spouse may have misguided motivations in the child custody case. An experienced lawyer should be able to identify their tactics and effectively counter them.
To start, contact Goldman Law. Our competent family law attorneys can provide you with case-specific guidance regarding child custody and child support in Colorado.