Stack of coins with sign indicating "Minimum Wage"

While the federal minimum wage remains stuck at the same $7.25/hr it has been since 2009, many states have now left that figure in the dust, Colorado included.

The Colorado Department of Labor has announced that on January 1, 2022 the state minimum wage will increase to $12.56/hr, from the current $12.32/hr for 2021. (Note that this is for regular employees – employees who receive enough in tips have a minimum of $9.54/hr). The annual increase is mandated by the voter-approved Amendment 70.

How the Minimum Wage Affects Colorado Family Law

Why does this matter to a family law case? Colorado’s maintenance and child support statutes utilize parties’ incomes for purposes of calculating family support. When both parents/spouses are employed full-time in gainful employment, the court will utilize their actual incomes. However, C.R.S. 14-10-115(5)(b) provides: “If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support must be calculated based on a determination of potential income.”

When an out-of-work parent has a work history, his/her potential income typically uses historic earnings as a starting point (at least if the parent is not the primary caregiver for a child under 24 months). However, when an unemployed parent has no meaningful work or educational history, minimum wage is the most common benchmark of what that parent is able to earn. So that parent will be “imputed” minimum wage of $12.56/hr, which comes to $2177/mo for a full-time 40-hour workweek ($12.56 x 40 hours x 52 weeks / 12 months).

But remember that Colorado’s minimum wage only applies to parties who live in this state. Should a spouse live outside Colorado, use that state/city’s minimum wage, if any, and if none, then apply the federal standard of $7.25/hr ($1257/mo).

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