The global pandemic resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak has led to widespread unemployment and an economic crisis in Colorado and across the country. Many people have lost their income due to layoffs and forced business shutdowns. If you’re currently going through (or have gone through) a divorce or other family law matter, you may have been ordered to pay child support or maintenance (alimony). It may be necessary to revisit the terms of your divorce or child custody matter and modify the order to reflect your new financial circumstances.
If you need to request child support/maintenance or are seeking a modification to an existing child support/maintenance order, Halligan LLC can help. We will discuss your financial circumstances and guide you toward the best solution for you and/or your children. Call us today at (720) 608-2361 to schedule a confidential consultation.
Child Support Orders During The Pandemic
In Colorado, child support is considered the right of a child until they are 19 years old or are otherwise emancipated from their parents. Colorado has guidelines for calculating child support payments to ensure that each parent is contributing a fair share of their income and resources to the child’s upbringing. Some of the factors that go into this calculation may include:
- Each parent’s gross monthly income;
- Any maintenance paid;
- Any child support paid for or children not of this relationship;
- Any income of the child;
- The annual number of overnights the child spends with each parent;
- Some child-related expenses, including daycare and health insurance; and
- Any financial support the child receives from other sources.
This calculation may have been changed dramatically due the COVID-19 crisis. One or both parents may have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. If you are subject to a child support order and you’ve lost some or all of your income, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to delay or change the amount of your payments.
One of the worst things you can do under a child support order is to stop paying the court-ordered child support amount. You could open yourself to many legal problems this way, including:
- Accrued interest added to the outstanding amount
- Suspension of your driver’s license
- Liens on real estate
- Interception of tax refunds, including the COVID-19 stimulus
- Problems with your credit rating
- Contempt of court ruling, which could result in a fine or jail time
Under Colorado law, you may be able to modify child support if you have undergone a “substantial and continuing change” in circumstances, including income. This may apply to many individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado. If you have lost your job or have experienced a significant decrease in income, it is crucial to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible and discuss whether you can request a child support modification. Doing so can protect your rights as a parent and help you avoid having to pay accrued support debt.
Requesting A Child Support Modification
Even after a divorce case is settled, courts are able to change an order for child support. A substantial and continuing change in employment circumstances or income may allow you to have the child support order modified. You need to show that the change in circumstances is a substantial and continuing change. Colorado law generally does not allow modification of child support for a temporary change in circumstances.
It is important to note that even if the parents can negotiate a modification to child support payments between each other, the court may not consider the results to be binding. The best option is to have an experienced family law attorney file a motion and/or stipulation to modify the child support order.
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support And COVID-19
If you’re facing child support payments during the pandemic and you’ve lost your income, you probably have many questions. Your attorney is the most reliable source of information about your own divorce, but here are a few answers to commonly asked questions that may help.
If I’m unemployed and receiving benefits, do I still have to pay child support?
Receiving unemployment benefits does not excuse you from the legal obligation to pay child support. If you fail to pay the full amount ordered (and on time), the Child Support Services (CSS) Program (or the other parent) may work to enforce the order. They can do so through income withholding (including unemployment benefits), intercepts, suspensions and denials, and judicial actions.
Can maintenance payments be modified?
Under Colorado Revised Statutes section 14-10-114(3)(a)(1), a court may find that maintenance (commonly referred to as “alimony” in other states) is appropriate. The amount of maintenance is determined based on each party’s:
- Gross income and property
- Financial resources
- Financial need
Just as with child support, the obligor of a maintenance payment is required to continue to make their court-ordered payments even after losing their job. A party who loses their job may lose the ability to pay maintenance however, or a party receiving maintenance may want/require a higher maintenance payment.
Maintenance is ordered pursuant to a divorce and is treated very similarly to child support by the courts when it comes to interest, determination of income, and enforcement. However, maintenance payments are more difficult to modify. Loss of employment is a major change in circumstances, however, and an experienced family law attorney may be able to file a motion to modify an order for maintenance, depending on the totality of your circumstances.
Speak With A Colorado Family Law Attorney Right Away
Dealing with a divorce or child custody matter and its effects on your family is a difficult and stressful ordeal even during normal times. In these chaotic economic circumstances, it can be even more stressful. If you’ve suffered financial hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic and you’re ordered to pay child support and/or maintenance, you need an attorney who understands Colorado family law and knows how to make it work for you and your children.
Our firm takes pride in delivering compassionate and personalized legal services to all our clients. Call us at (720) 608-2361 or fill out our contact form today to schedule a confidential consultation.