How to Modify my Child Support, Child Custody, or Alimony Court Orders in Colorado
What is Child Support Modification?
Paying child support is, for all intents and purposes, temporary. It is also to make sure that both parent’s pay a share in raising the children, especially when one parent is awarded primary custody. In Colorado, child support stops after the last child in the house turns 19 years of age. However, up until this point a parent still has the legal right to modify what he or she pays in support.
A parent may seek modification when there is considerable change in either parent’s financial status. It is important to note that this change must be “continuing” not temporary. Such changes can include: job loss, higher living expenses, emancipation of a child, change in health insurance, remarriage, change in alimony payments, change in daycare costs, etc. Modification requires a 10% change or more in the amount of child support that is to be paid. If a review finds that the change in circumstance warrants anything less than a 10% change, it is not considered substantial enough and no modification will be made.
Since a change in financial circumstance can occur for either party, both parents have the right to file for child support modification at any time.
Paying Less Child Support And the Dangers of Being in Arrears
Financially speaking, child support can be a source of worry and angst for the parent paying it. We should always do what is best for our children, but sometimes child support can be overwhelming, and the amount order can be unfair. While a ruling on child support can be altered, as we have already discussed, other than seeking legal modification, you should never unilaterally stop or reduce your payments (even if your spouse verbally agrees) without first getting a court order.
Just because a recipient of child support lives a frugal lifestyle and may not spend all the money received, this does not give the payer grounds to seek modification.
None of the above actions will provide you with the outcome you are looking for. Not only is it illegal to avoid or stop making payments, your spouse has the weight of the law to enforce payment. Those who reduce, fall behind or simply fail to make their payments are subject to:
- Garnishment. This is court order method of collection is when a portion of money is withheld from your paycheck to pay for unpaid child support. Beside getting a smaller check, what makes this method even harder to bear is the fact that your employer is alerted and will be involved.
- Loss of Driver’s License. If you don’t pay your share of child support, the State may come in and remove your license from you.
- Remedial Contempt. A spouse may file a motion of Remedial Contempt, which asks a judge to put the non-paying parent in jail, for a period of time, until the debt is paid.
- Punitive Contempt. Unlike remedial contempt, a parent who files for this motion must be able to prove that the non-paying parent deliberately did not pay their portion of child support, when they were financially capable. This motion asks a court to punish said parent with either jail time, fines or a combination thereof, even if they have already paid the missing child support in question.
- Liens on Property. A court can get unpaid child support by placing a lien on your property or force you to sell personal property.
- Revocation of Professional Licenses: To pressure a parent into paying, a court can revoke or place a temporary hold on occupational and recreational licenses until payment is made in full.
- Bad Credit. CSEU can report a parent after they fall $500 or 60 days behind to credit agencies, causing credit scores to drop.
Those who owe past-due child support are legally referred to as ‘being in arrears’. Not only does the receiving parent have the right to seek any of the above penalties against the payer, but this could mean the payer can be still be making payments on any past-due amounts even after the child has reached the legal emancipation age and is no longer financially dependent on the custodial parent.
It is important to note that arrearages can accumulate interest and do not go away, even if the payer files for bankruptcy.
Running to another state or hoping to prove that you’re not the biological parent won’t help you either. In Colorado, Fox News reported on a case where a man found out that he was not the biological parent of his daughter, whom he was paying child support for. Even though the biological father had been located, the court would not terminate his parental right, or legal responsibility to his daughter, without the biological father stepping in.
While simply stopping your child support may seem like an instant fix, it could be at the cost of your property, your professional life and your personal freedom. If you are hoping to reduce or stop paying child support, your best bet is to contact an attorney at R&H who can help you.
R&H Case Study: It is possible to terminate child support early. Our attorneys helped a client stop making payments when the recipient spouse had a substantial increase in income due to a promotion at work. Additionally, because this promotion required the recipient spouse to travel, we requested a modification of custody under the argument that it was more stable for the children. Not only did our lawyers free our client from continuing to pay unfair levels of child support, we also got them more parenting time.
How to Get More Child Support
Has your ex-spouse had a major promotion at work? Maybe you’ve had a loss in income or substantial change in your child’s educational or medical needs? If your current child support order doesn’t meet your changing needs or doesn’t have a provision for medical expenses, then you have the right to modify.
Please note, this only applies to non-voluntary actions; quitting a job or willingly taking a pay cut are not acceptable reasons for modification.
When filing the case, you must give a reason for the change. Proper supporting documentation such as three months’ worth of pay stubs, your three most recent years of taxes, receipts of child care costs, birth certificates of child dependents and various other documents should be included.
Ultimately you must get court approval to officially change the amount of support received or given. Even if you and your ex-spouse have come to a verbal agreement on a new amount, our attorneys recommend you get it legally recognized. There is always a chance that great relationship now could go downhill tomorrow and courts will not enforce verbal agreements.
For agreeable couples, using one of our lawyers to review paperwork and any supporting documentation could be a cost-effective way to make sure you’re not wasting the court’s time in submitting faulty or incomplete information, which could result in case dismissal.
It can be difficult for a court to assess the non-custodial parent’s income. This is especially true for if they are uncooperative in disclosing financial information, perhaps even going so far as to hide income or assets so they can get out of paying further support.
If you think you may have to go to court because of a quarrelsome ex-spouse, then it is advisable to seek legal representation. R&H has helped many clients by making sure the court gets the correct financial information by pursuing subpoenas for various financial documents and getting depositions (questioning the party about their finances under oath).
R&H Case study: R&H has helped many clients overcome uncooperative and dishonest spouses. In a particular case, we helped a client whose spouse was being dishonest about selling the marital home. By hiding the money they received from the sale of the house, they had hoped that our client would not be able to retain legal help. By cross examining the spouse on record in court, we were able to get them to admit the existence of the funds, or face the repercussions of perjury. R&H got our client immediate financial relief of $20,000, as well as higher child support payments. Our client would not have received either the bulk sum or the higher ongoing payments had our lawyers not exposed the dishonest spouse for hiding the additional income acquired from selling the house.
Child Custody Modification
Above all things – a court’s main consideration when deciding on custody modification is what is in the best interest of the child. To alter parenting time, you must show a prominent change in either parent’s living situation. Switching who the primary custodial parent is much more difficult and requires the secondary parent to prove that the child is in physical or psychological danger should they continue in their current environment.
The prevalent reasons a court will consider modifying custody:
- Is the child in danger – physical or psychological
- Change in job schedule of custodial parent
- Drug abuse
- Child abuse
- Military deployment
For spouses of military persons, it is possible to get temporary change in custody in cases such as military deployment of the primary parent.
Typically, a person will reopen a child custody case at the court that made the original order. This is dependent upon one of the parents (even if it is only the non-custodial parent) and/or children continuing to reside in Colorado. In the event that neither parent resides in the state in which the original orders were entered, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act dictates, that the state in which the child has resided for a consecutive six months assumes child custody jurisdiction.
When we can prove that the children are in danger due to the presence of drugs, abuse or mental instability of the opposing parent, we have been successful in getting our clients and their dependents a better custody agreement. Whether that is getting a temporary change in custody, while the opposing spouse seeks rehabilitative help for an addiction, or a permanent change as the opposing parent becomes unfit to parent, due to a continued mental illness for example.
Child Visitation Modification
Child visitation refers to when one parent is awarded primary custody, then the non-custodial parent usually retains visitation rights. A court can determine whether those visitation rights are to be supervised or not, as well as the frequency and duration of the visits.
If a parenting couple are dissatisfied with their current visitation ruling, then they can submit a new proposed visitation schedule to the court. Edits to pick-up and drop-off locations, times and frequency of visitation are usually accepted by courts, so long as it can be agreed upon by the parents in question and is in the best interests of the children. Keep in mind that courts do not like to disrupt a child’s environment or schedule so if a party does not provide a sufficient reason for the modification, then a court could dismiss the appeal, and even have the requester pay the other parent’s legal fees.
As with smaller modifications, a couple do not have to go to court to modify larger custody items, like switching primary custody. However, the greater the disruption of a child’s environment, the stronger your evidence for a “substantial and continuing” change, which warrants the modification, must be.
The violation of a parent’s visitation rights are also grounds for requesting modification. If your ex is repeatedly late, misses visits, keeps a child for too long or refuses to abide by the agreed upon visitation times, then contact us at R&H. We can notify that parent on your behalf of the legal repercussions they may face and even file a motion of contempt of court if the violations continue.
Alimony (Spousal Maintenance) Modification
As with modifications in child support, to modify alimony, one must prove that a notable change in life has occurred and that it is ongoing. For a person seeking to increase pay, a warrant-able change could be the presence of a disability or caring for an aging parent. For someone seeking to decrease or terminate alimony, prominent changes such as remarriage of the recipient spouse, emancipation of a child or retirement of paying spouse are valid reasons for modification. Either way, it is important to demonstrate to a court that the change in circumstance renders the original ruling unfair to either party. Reasons behind alimony modification are:
- Change in health
- Change in income
- Inaccurate income disclosure when alimony was originally awarded
If you suspect that your spouse’s income was reported incorrectly during the original alimony hearing, you may have reason to seek alimony modification. A knowledgeable lawyer can help uncover any incorrect information or intentionally hid assets. Please see our full article on alimony here for further information.
In taking the first steps to see if an alimony agreement can be amended, besides locating a reason, one must determine if the original agreement allows for any future changes. If an original agreement states that it is “contractual” and “unmodifiable”, then a court will have no power to approve any modification, irrespective of how significant and ongoing a change may be.
If the original contract does give room for amendments, then collecting the correct paperwork to support the reason for the change is the next step. Items such as W2s, paystubs, proof of retirement, proof of disability, birth certificates of dependents, and marriage certificates must be collected. Additionally, for those wanting to decrease or terminate payments, they should make sure that they are not in arrears and all payments are up-to-date.
R&H has worked for clients on both sides of an alimony argument. For recent retirees, we’ve helped argue to a court that due to change in income after retirement, alimony payments became “unduly burdensome”, which can cause a court to decrease and even terminate payments for the retired spouse.
Fret not, most legal rulings are always subject to change, even when you may not think you have a case. Contact us at R&H and we can provide a free consultation. Whether or not you choose to hire an attorney, we can give insight, guidance and advice on the unique possibilities and challenges your case may face.