As is often the case in these kinds of matters, the answer is "It depends."
What it depends on are the remaining factors in the calculation of child support, which is governed by Colorado Revised Statutes § 14-10-115. The factors, in addition to the number of overnights for each parent, include:
--Mom's gross income.
--Dad's gross income.
--Work-related or education-related day care. "Education-related refers to the education of a parent who is going back to school to gain skills that will result in greater earnings. These expenses often, but not always, are factored into the calculation.
--The cost of health insurance.
--Any extraordinary medical expenses of the kids.
--Certain other extraordinary expenses, such as special schooling (private schools) for a child, based on the needs of the child.
--Items that adjust the need for support, such as a child's income.
--Child support paid for other children (not of the relationship).
In general, child support often does vary depending on the division of overnights. In families where one parent has the child or children less than 93 overnights annually (less than one-fourth of the time), there will be a Worksheet A calculation. This means that if the children are with the "non-primary" parent less than one-fourth of the time, the same calculation will be used whether there are no overnights with the non-primary parent or 92. The Worksheet B calculation, which often results in lower child support, is only for families where the parent with the lower number of overnights has 93 or more overnights in a year.
So, looking at a worksheet in a post-divorce family with two children in which Mother and Father both earn $5,000 monthly, and mom pays $350 monthly in health insurance, with no other adjustments, here would be the child support amounts, depending on the overnights:
--Kids mainly with Dad, spending 92 or fewer overnights annually with Mom, then Mom pays Dad $674 monthly. This is based on a Worksheet A. The support is $674 whether the children have no overnights or 92 overnights with Mom.
--Kids still mainly with Dad, spending exactly 93 overnights annually with Mom, then Mom pays Dad $449 monthly. This is based on a Worksheet B, as are the two calculations immediately below. Note that the one overnight caused the child support to go down $225 monthly.
--Children still mainly with Dad, spending 130 overnights annually with Mom, then Mom pays Dad $191 monthly. Worksheet B.
--Still with Dad, spending 165 overnights annually with Mom, then Dad pays mom $53 monthly. The reason Dad owes Mom is because of the $350 monthly health insurance adjustment. Worksheet B.
At the Colorado Judicial Department website, www.courts.state.co.us, there is an interactive child support program where you can plug in numbers and see what the child support would be based upon your situation or a hypothetical set of circumstances.
A word to the wise, however, is that the best approach is "child-centered," that is, the parents try to figure out what is best for their children, in terms of where the kids spend their overnights, and then "let the chips fall where they may," related to the child support.
Another word to the wise – if parents are working off of a Worksheet B, they are supposed to be sharing the expenses of the children, such as extracurricular expenses, clothing costs, school lunches, and all the other expenses associated with raising children.
Finally, it should be noted that judicial officers have the discretion to vary from the child support guidelines, based on the needs of the children and all the circumstances of the case. The reality is that, while there is the ability to deviate from the guidelines, it seldom happens. Most of the time, the judges and magistrates follow the guidelines.
By Doris Truhlar