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Do Military Benefits Count When Determining Child Support in Colorado?

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The Colorado Court of Appeals recently issued a decision regarding whether military housing and food allowances should be considered income when determining child support.

In the case of In re Parental Responsibilities of L.K.Y., and Concerning Peabody, the Mother was serving in the U.S. Army and lived off base and received housing and food allowances in addition to her salary. Mother argued that the housing and food allowances should not be considered income, which would increase her child support obligation, but should be used to reduce the child’s basic needs and therefore reduce her child support obligation.

The court disagreed and determined that the housing and food allowances should be included in her gross income, which in turn increased her child support obligation under Colorado’s Child Support Guidelines.

The most interesting part of the decision is the concurring opinion of Judge Rothenberg of the Court of Appeals. In Colorado, a parent’s child support obligation is determined by using the Child Support Guidelines. The resulting child support figure under the Guidelines is presumed to be reasonable and correct. However, a Judge has the authority to deviate from the Guidelines if, under the specific circumstances, the resulting child support obligation is not fair and reasonable. In this case, Judge Rothenberg raised the question as to whether including the housing and food allowance should have been grounds to deviate from the child support guidelines since the application of the child support guidelines, in this case, arguably resulted in an unfair child support obligation. In fact, Judge Rothenberg wrote that “It is unclear from the record why the magistrate found no compelling reason to deviate from the statutory child support guidelines.” However, since the parent did not request the Court to deviate from the Guidelines and this issue was not raised in the appeal, the Court of Appeals did not address the argument.

So what do we learn from this case? We learn that Mother should have argued that including her housing and food allowances in determining her child support obligation was not fair or was unreasonable and the court should have deviated from the Guidelines.  If the Court had determined that it was unreasonable or unfair, the court could have determined that all of her housing and food allowances, or maybe a portion, should not have been included as income in determining her child support obligation.