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Child Support Frequently Asked Questions: Modifying Child Support

I bought a new house and car and my payments have doubled, so I can’t afford my child support. Can I get it changed?

No. Courts do not generally factor in personal expenses for child support purposes. Child support has nothing to do with one’s personal expense or whether he can afford to pay. Most courts view the child support guideline amounts as binding and what should be paid. A child support payer should always factor in his or her monthly child support payment as the most important expense when budgeting or taking on new financial obligations.

My ex-wife quit her job to go back to school and she wants to raise my child support. Can she do that?

If the court determines that the educational program sought is done in good faith, with the intent of ultimately making more money, most Denver area judges will cut the person going back to school a break in terms of his or her income. This does not mean that judges, and our legal team, are not able to spot career students.

If the education pursuit is truly determined to be legitimate, the court may very well give someone a pass, including potentially calling his or her income $0.00 per month for child support purposes. C.R.S. 14-10-115 specifically sets forth language regarding the issue of a parent being enrolled in school. Statute also indicates that this cannot unreasonably deprive a child of support. There is no black and white answer and each case must be looked at on an individual basis. Courts will also likely set forth provisions regarding time frames, reporting if school is quit, review upon graduation, etc.

My oldest is turning 19. Can I modify child support?

Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-115(13), unless disabled or still in high school, a child emancipates for child support purposes at age 19. Often times, people will have multiple children. There is a common belief that when the oldest child turns 19, child support either automatically modifies or will logically go down. As such, the issue of a modification arises.

However, the oldest child dropping off, let’s say in a family of three children, will not always lead to the change the payer is seeking. For purposes of exemplification, let’s say at the time the parties were divorced five years ago, there was a 12-year-old, a 13-year-old, and a 14-year-old. At the time orders were entered, the payer was making $5,000 per month and the payee was making $1000, rendering a monthly child support amount of $500.

Jumping forward five years, the 14-year-old is now turning 19. Let’s say that the payer is now making $7,000 per month and the payee is still making $1000. Though certainly from a legal standpoint, the duty to continue paying for the now 19-year-old ends, the parties will still need to run a new child support calculation, using the statutory guidelines, to see what the new figure for the remaining two children will be.

This new calculation will, of course, factor in the new income. With the payer’s increased income, there is a chance that the new child support amount, even though there are now only two kids left, could be the same, or even more. It could also go down, but must go down by 10% or more in order for the child support to be reduced.

In sum, when the oldest child turns 19, you can certainly look into modification. However, depending on the numbers, a reduction may not automatic follow. When the child’s 19th birthday is approaching, it would be wise to contact a Denver child support attorney to assess the figures. Nothing is automatic until the last child reaches 19 years of age.

When can you modify a child support order in Colorado?

A motion to modify a child support order can be filed at any time up until the last child turns 19 years of age. A Colorado child support order can be modified by filing a motion for modification of child support pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-122. The standard for modification is that there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances which changes the bottom line child support amount by 10% or more.

Modifications of child support are generally going to be made retroactive to the date of the filing of a motion. As such, the timing of when you file is important and you would likely benefit from consulting with a family law attorney should you have questions about your rights and options related to modification.

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