IN RE the MARRIAGE OF Ryan E. BOETTCHER, Petitioner, and Christina L. BOETTCHER, Respondent.
Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals, Court
of Appeals Case No. 17CA262
for Petitioner: Eckelberry Law Firm, LLC, John L. Eckelberry,
for Respondent: Aitken Law, LLC, Sharlene J. Aitken, Denver,
Colorado Peek Goldstone, LLC, Amanda M. Peek, Greeley,
Colorados child support guidelines provide district courts a
framework for determining the amount of child support they
should award in dissolution of marriage proceedings. One part
of these guidelines is a schedule of child support
obligations that sets specific presumptive payment amounts
based on the number of children and the parties combined
income. But that schedule does not include an award amount
for every conceivable family income level.
In this case, we must determine how a district court should
calculate child support obligations when the parties
combined income exceeds the uppermost specified combined
monthly income of $30,000. Because we conclude that the plain
language of the statute provides that the uppermost award
identified explicitly in the schedule is the minimum
presumptive award for families with higher incomes, we
determine that the district
court may, within its discretion, award more than that amount
so long as the court supports its order with findings made
pursuant to section 14-10-115(2)(b), C.R.S. (2019).
Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.
I. Facts and Procedural History
At the time of the dissolution of their marriage, Ryan E.
Boettcher ("father") and Christina L. Boettcher
("mother") agreed that neither party would pay
child support. Several years later, mother, citing a
substantial change in fathers income, sought a modification
of the original decree so that she could receive child
support. The district court conducted an evidentiary hearing
to determine whether modification was appropriate. At the
hearing, the parties admitted evidence of their incomes
showing that mother earned $13,343 per month and father
earned $92,356 per month— a combined monthly income far
exceeding the highest combined income of $30,000 per month
listed in the schedule contained in the statutory child
support guidelines. See § 14-10-115(7)(b).
Father requested that the district court impose a monthly
child support obligation of $1,424.82, which would be the
presumptive award amount if the parties combined income were
$30,000 per month. Father argued that the presumptive amount
of child support for that income level was also the
presumptive amount for any higher income level. If the court
ordered a higher payment, father argued, such payment would
constitute a deviation from the statutory presumptive amount
and would require specific findings under section
Mother disagreed. She contended that the district court
should extrapolate fathers monthly child support obligations
from the uppermost level of the guidelines in light of the
parties actual combined income. This approach would result
in a monthly support payment of $5,024.
The district court rejected both arguments. In doing so, it
observed that section 14-10-115(7)(a)(II)(E) provides that a
court "may use discretion" in setting child support
amounts where the parties combined income is higher than
$30,000, "except that the presumptive basic child
support obligation shall not be less than it would be"
if the combined income were $30,000. That statutory
provision, the court explained, was inconsistent with both
fathers and mothers respective positions because ...