What Does Child Support Cover?

Child support can be a confusing and complex part of a separation or divorce. It’s state-specific and there are several factors that influence it. From understanding the details of when it’s paid to what is covered to how you calculate it, in this post, we work to help you get a handle on the topic of child support.

What exactly is child support?

Child support is the culmination of “normal” expenses associated with raising a child. These normal expenses typically include food, shelter, transportation, clothing, health insurance, and certain educational costs. Both parents are obligated to contribute toward child support and the cost of these basic expenses is set in this state by Colorado’s Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations. 

Additional examples of what is typically included in child support:

  • Groceries for the children
  • Clothing
  • School lunches
  • School supplies
  • Daycare costs for parents who work (if it has been included on the child support worksheet)

Of course there are always exceptions and this list varies ultimately, on what is included on your child support worksheet.

How Does Child Support Work?

As mentioned above, both parents are expected to provide the children with the above general living expenses during their parenting time. However, the percentage of contribution each parent makes toward child support is based on parents’ incomes, number of overnights with the minor child(ren), and the number of children being supported. Child support paid from one parent can also change overtime.

Child support is calculated with a state-specific worksheet. Any expense that is not included in the worksheet may not be easy to enforce. Things like daycare and health insurance are only sometimes included on the worksheet, based on your unique agreements. If there are expenses that aren’t part of worksheet calculations, ensure that they are expressly stated in your Parenting Plan along with an agreement on how to pay or split these expenses.

Court ordered child support is usually part of your Parenting Plan agreement and must be paid until the court has made a modification. A modification might happen with a significant job change (income) or major change in overnights. Usually, modifications don’t happen unless there is a 10% change in the amount paid from one parent to the other.

How do “extraordinary expenses” relate to child support?

Extraordinary expenses add up in the life of the child but are not usually addressed on the child support worksheet. If the annual total aggregate amount of these expenses exceeds $250 per year, they should be specifically addressed in the parenting plan. Examples include:

  • School field trips
  • School or sport uniforms
  •  School fees
  • Sport/activity fees and associated costs
  • Summer camp
  • Club or organization membership costs
  • Tuition
  • Car insurance
  • Cell phone 
  • Private lessons
  • Medical costs per year per child, for example:
    • Medical co-pays or deductibles
    • Therapy
    • Orthodontia
    • Dental
    • Asthma treatments
    • Allergy shots
    • Physical therapy
    • Surgeries
    • Prescription drugs
    • Vision care including glasses and contacts
    • Out of pocket expense health expenses

In order to ensure both parents understand the expectations of how these costs will be managed, they should be outlined in the Parenting Plan.. Typically agreements split these costs 50/50 or are based on a percentage of the parent’s total income such as 70/30. These are general guidelines and recommendations and it is always best to discuss your specific circumstances with your legal counsel.

Beyond payment, some of these extraordinary expenses require joint decision making. For example, both parties will need to agree on medical treatment, extracurricular activities, and/or summer camps because they have not only a financial impact on both parties, but also impact the parents’ parenting time. If there are extraordinary activities or expenses that are not agreed on for financial reasons (such as an expensive overnight camp or competitive sport), parents can make alternative agreements regarding how to share or not share in the expense, but allow the activity or expense to take place.


Child support can be a confusing topic to wrap your head around. You may wonder how child support will impact your financial situation now and in the future. We can help you understand how child support obligations or payments impact your finances and what you should consider both in your Parenting Plan now and how you should plan for what’s next. Contact us for a free consultation.