Divorce: The Unfortunate Connection between Money and Custody Time


If you’re a parent going through a divorce and a custody battle, it’s important that you understand the connection between the number of overnights per month a child spends with one parent or the other so that you know what you will potentially be up against when you face your former spouse in Court.

Overnights Equate to More Child Support

In my opinion, one of the worst things the Colorado legislature did was put financial implications on overnights with kids of divorced parents.

For years, people thought it was best for kids to have the stability of leaving to go to school from the same house every morning. This generally meant that back in the day, fathers would have the kids over the weekend, and mothers would have the kids during the week. It was also common for the father to take the kids out to dinner during the week, but the idea was that the kids would come home every school night so they could ride the same bus in the morning, would have access to whatever they need, e.g., tablets, skates, etc.

This structure was intended to create a sense of security for the children so they could grow up feeling stable and nurtured with as regular a routine as possible considering the circumstances. [It should be noted that many experts now believe that the relationship with a parent is more important than this stability. I am not choosing one theory over the other. However, I often believe the parents’ decision is based on financial considerations.]

When the legislature created the child support worksheet, which calculates how much child support one parent would pay the other each month, people started to figure out that the more overnights you have, the less child support you have to pay.

So, if your Wednesday dinner with the kids becomes a Wednesday overnight with the kids at your house, that’s an extra 52 overnights per year. That could easily change your child support obligation by hundreds of dollars per month.

The parent paying child support would think, “Hey, I take the kid to dinner and spend the after-school hours with him/her, and all the other parent does is put the child to bed when I bring him/her home. I should just keep the kid for the night and pay less in child support.”

To be clear, the parents that receive child support are just as bad as the parents that pay child support in this regard. Imagine being on the other side of this equation: the parent receiving support might think, “Hey, my expenses aren’t going to change, but now, because the other parent is taking the child for an overnight instead of bringing him/her home, I suddenly have hundreds of dollars less in child support? That doesn’t feel fair!”

So, you can see why divorce battles can become so contentious: There’s potentially a lot of money involved.

Custody Arrangements are Complicated

In my opinion, prior to the legislature’s overhaul of the child support worksheet, people generally made decisions about parenting time based on what they thought was best for the kids. Now the financial aspect factors in much more strongly.

Understand that the issue of child support and parenting time is infinitely more complicated than the situation I outlined above, and every family is very different. It is crucial, if you are going through a divorce with kids, that you have an attorney in your corner who understands these laws inside and out.

If you are dealing with a divorce and need legal counsel, let’s talk. Call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation.

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