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When a court issues a child support order as part of a divorce proceeding, the amount cannot be changed absent a modification approved by the court, and the amount that the court orders a parent to pay each month must be paid. The parent who pays child support cannot willfully decide to skip a month or alter the amount of support they provide.
However, life is uncertain. What if the parent who pays child support loses their job and can no longer pay child support as a result? What if an unforeseen and drastic change in financial circumstances arises? In such cases, it may be necessary for the spouse to undergo a special legal process to modify the existing child support order.
How Is Child Support Calculated in Colorado?
Colorado law requires that parents provide their children with adequate financial support to ensure their welfare. Custody payments are typically the responsibility of the parent who does not have custody of the child or children and are paid to the parent who possesses custody of the child or children. These custody payments usually must be made until the child reaches the age of 19 or emancipates, although child support may continue if the child has not yet graduated from high school.
Although the state of Colorado outlines how a judge should calculate child support, determining a reasonable and fair amount can be complex. For instance, if the parent who will not have custody of the child fails to disclose certain financial resources they have, including sources of income, issues could arise. In other instances, the parent who must pay child support may dispute the amount, which can also complicate matters.
The courts typically consider a broad range of factors when determining child support, such as:
- Each party’s gross monthly income
- Any child support still being paid for other children
- Any spousal support a parent pays or receives
- Health insurance premiums paid for the child care expenses for each child
- The cost of work or school related childcare
- Any extraordinary child expenses paid by either parent
However, unexpected changes to a parent’s financial circumstances can occur, and if they render the obligor parent unable to pay for child support, or unable to pay child support at the same rate, or if there are other substantial and continuing changes of financial circumstances of either parent, then a parent may file a motion to modify child support.
When Might Modification Be Necessary?
There are a variety of legitimate reasons why modifying an existing child support order might be necessary, typically because the parent who pays child support has experienced a major financial hardship, one of the children under the support order has emancipated, or a spousal support obligation has been modified or terminated.
There are also circumstances where a parent’s financial circumstances significantly change for the better, such as if they received a promotion at work or got a new job that pays better than their previous one. The parent who receives child support may wish to modify the existing agreement to reflect the non-custodial parent’s new, higher income.
Colorado courts will only consider modifying the existing child support order if there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances occurring since the last order was entered, that justifies a modification of the order, which typically must result in at least a ten percent change in the support obligation.
Some examples of circumstances in which modification might be necessary include:
- A parent experienced a substantial change in income, which is expected to continue.
- A parent was terminated or laid off from their job, cannot find employment with a similar income, and can no longer make the payments.
- If the child has new healthcare-related needs, child support might need to be modified to compensate for extra medical costs.
- If it is determined that a child had special education needs, it is possible that the original agreement might need to be altered to ensure those needs are being met.
- If one of the children becomes emancipated and therefore no longer the subject of a support order
- If the maintenance obligation between the parties is modified or terminated
- If there is a substantial and continuing change in the work or school related child care costs either parents incurs.
- A court ordered, agreed upon, or voluntary change in parenting time.
These are some of the most common circumstances in which a parent may wish to modify their present child support order. However, there are other circumstances that the courts will typically not accept, even if it has caused the obligor parent a financial loss.
For example, if the obligor parent gets fired from his/her job and right away files a motion to modify child support, the court will likely find this is not a substantial AND continuing change in circumstances.
What If Both Parties Agree to a Modification?
If both parties agree to modify the existing child support order, they must file a stipulation with the court that ordered the original child support obligation. The court will review the proposed changes and, if approved, the modified child support obligation will take effect.
If both parents do not agree to changing the existing order, then the parent who wishes to modify the agreement must file a Motion to Modify Child Support with the original court. The other parent must also be served a copy of the motion to modify so that they are aware of the requested changes.
How to Modify Your Child Support Order in Colorado
If you are terminated from your job, experience a demotion, or something else occurs in your life that causes a substantial and ongoing change in your financial situation, then the most important thing you can do right off the bat is to start collecting evidence, such as documentation, to show the court how your circumstances have changed (and will continue as such) since the child support arrangement was first ordered.
If you are a parent who receives child support, you may want to request a modification if the other parent has a new job or promotion, if you have to take over some of their responsibilities, or if new needs arise regarding your child or children.
To initiate the modification process, you’ll first need to make sure your current orders do not require you attend mediation prior to filing a motion. If you have already attended mediation, you will need to file the motion in writing with the court that ordered the original child support agreement. Once that is complete, you will also need to file:
- A sworn affidavit that discloses your current financial situation including assets, debt, and income, as well as exchanging financial documentation with the other parent.
- A child support worksheet that shows your revised child support calculations. You’ll need to use an official calculator to determine this.
Additional forms may be needed depending on the county in which you live. If after these documents are filed and exchanged between the parents, they can still not agree upon a modification, the court will hold a hearing and determine if a modification is warranted and if so, the new amount of child support that will be ordered.
Talk to a Dedicated Family Law Attorney
Navigating the process of modifying child support can be complicated, and disputes may arise, so having a successful and experienced Denver child support attorney like the attorneys at Halligan LLC can be hugely beneficial. If you are planning to request a modification to an existing child support order in the Denver area, contact us for a consultation. Call us at (720) 608-2361 or reach us online today.