Modifying Child Support

May 2, 2024

Child support is a financial arrangement established in court or state services to meet a child's needs after a divorce or separation. However, life circumstances can change, and what was once a fair amount of child support may no longer be appropriate. Colorado law allows for modifications to child support orders under specific circumstances. This blog post, brought to you by Child Support Attorney Timothy Dudley of Johnson Law Group, will guide you through the process of modifying child support in Colorado.

Can Child Support Be Modified in Colorado? child support agreement paper surround by a gavel, glasses, book, and pen.

Yes, child support orders can be modified in Colorado, but only if circumstances have changed substantially. This means a significant event that impacts either the parent's financial situation or the child's needs has occurred. The new circumstances must lead to a recalculation where the current child support amount increases or decreases by 10%.

Common Reasons for Modifying Child Support

  • Changes in Parenting Time: If the number of overnights a child spends with each parent changes significantly, it can affect the amount of child support needed. For example, if one parent now has primary custody, they may require more financial support to cover the child's expenses.
  • Changes in Income: A significant and lasting change in either parent's income can be grounds for modifying child support. This includes income increases, which could allow for more support for the child's needs, and income decreases, which may lead to a lower support amount.
  • Job Loss: An unexpected setback such as job loss can disrupt the ability to meet child support obligations. In such cases, seeking a modification to reflect the current financial reality is essential to avoid undue strain.
  • Changes in a Child's Needs: If a child's needs for healthcare, education, or other essentials significantly increase, this could necessitate a modification to child support to ensure those needs are met.

Retroactive Modification of Child Support

In Colorado, child support modifications typically apply only to payments due after the motion to modify is filed. You won't get money back for any missed or overpaid support before filing. However, there are exceptions:

  • Undue Hardship or Substantial Injustice: If the court finds that modifying support only back to the time of filing would cause significant hardship to one party, they may order a retroactive adjustment before the filing. This is uncommon and requires a compelling case.
  • Change in Physical Custody: If there's a change in physical custody (who the child lives with most of the time), the court has more leeway to apply the modification retroactively, potentially back to the date of the custody change. Keep in mind, however, that there's a five-year limit on this retroactivity unless the court finds it exceptionally unfair not to go back further. 

The Power of Mutual Agreement

In an ideal scenario, both parents can reach an agreement on modifying child support. This can be a much faster and less expensive route. Open communication and focusing on the child's well-being are crucial for successful negotiation. You can utilize online child support calculators or consult a mediator to reach a fair and mutually agreeable amount.

When Agreement Isn't Possible

Unfortunately, reaching a mutual agreement isn't always possible. Perhaps one parent disagrees with the need for modification, or negotiations stall on the adjusted amount. In such cases, either parent can file a motion with the court to modify child support.

Importance of Filing a Motion to Modify Early

It's crucial to file a motion to modify child support as soon as possible after a substantial change in circumstances occurs. This is because, in most cases, the court can only order adjustments to child support payments going forward from the date the motion is filed. By filing promptly, you maximize the potential for retroactive adjustments if you qualify under the exceptions mentioned above.

The Emotional Impact of Filing Early

Timely filing can also have emotional benefits. Delayed action can create tension and resentment between parents, especially if one feels they've been financially burdened unfairly. Addressing the situation promptly demonstrates a willingness to adapt and prioritize the child's well-being.

The Court's Role

The court will review the motion and hold a hearing to consider evidence from both parties. This evidence typically includes financial documents demonstrating substantial changes in circumstances, such as income changes, job loss, or increased childcare costs.

Understanding the Timeline

Every child support modification case is unique. The timeline for the process can vary based on several factors, as mentioned above. While an exact timeframe is difficult to predict, here is a general idea:

  • Reaching an Agreement: This could take weeks or months, depending on communication and negotiation.
  • Court Process: Once a motion is filed, it can take up to 49 days for the court to review and schedule a hearing (if needed). The hearing itself could be weeks or months away.

The Importance of Legal Counsel

Modifying child support can be a complex legal process. An experienced family law attorney like Attorney Timothy Dudley at Johnson Law Group can help you navigate the legalities. They can:

  • Assess your eligibility for a modification based on your specific circumstances.
  • Gather evidence to support your request, including financial documents and documentation of the substantial change in circumstances.
  • Draft and file the motion to modify with the court.
  • Represent you in court if your case goes to trial.

Your Trusted Family Law Attorneys

Child support modifications are intended to ensure your child's financial needs are met as circumstances change. If you believe a substantial change in your situation or your child's needs justifies a modification, don't hesitate to contact Johnson Law Group. Our team can help you navigate the process and advocate for you and your child's best interests. Remember, there's no substitute for professional legal advice – call us at 720-445-4444 today to schedule a FREE consultation and discuss your child support modification options.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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