Calculating Child Support When the Parenting Plan is Different for Each Child

In Colorado, child support is calculated pursuant to a statutory formula that has been integrated into a child support worksheet available on the self-help website.  The statutory formula considers each parent’s income, certain expenses for the children, and the number of overnights each parent spends with the child or children. 

Unfortunately, the statute does not expressly address situations in which a parent exercises a different number of overnights with each child.  This type of parenting plan is becoming more common as courts better understand the developmental needs of children.  A court may, for example, create a parenting plan in which a child under two years of age spends significantly more time with his mother than with his father, while that child’s older sister spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent. 

In 1991, the Colorado court of appeals decided In re Marriage of Quam, in which the court concluded that a father of three children should not receive credit for a “full” overnight if he had fewer than three children with him for that overnight.  In re Marriage of Quam, 813 P.2d 833, 835 (Colo. App. 1991).  In Quam, the court of appeals gave the father credit for 1/3 overnight for each overnight he had with each child, such that he would receive credit for one full overnight only if all three children were present for the overnight parenting time.

Today, the court of appeals published a new opinion in which it affirmed Quam and clarified that the appropriate way to calculate child support when the parenting time is different for each child is to use this fractional approach rather than to run a separate worksheet for each child and then average the two numbers.  In re the Marriage of Wells, 10CA0249 (Colo. App. 2011).

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