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Adjustment of Child Support in Colorado and Denver Courts
Modifications to a child support order can be a complicated process in Colorado and Denver courts. In particular, under Colorado Revised Statute (“C.R.S.”) § 14-10-122, once a child support order is entered, it may only be modified based on a parent’s changed financial circumstances where those changes are “substantial and continuing.”
The statute goes on to define a substantial change sufficient to justify the modification of a child support order as a change in a supporting parent’s circumstances that would amount to at least a 10% difference in the amount owed based on child support calculation guidelines. C.R.S. § 14-10-122(1)(b). Accordingly, where a parent has minimal changes to his or her income, or where the change is only a temporary one, the parent will likely not be eligible to modify a currently existing child support order.
Importantly, where a request to modify a child support order is granted, the modification relates back to the date of the filing of the motion and will not be retroactively applied unless there has been a change in physical custody of the child. Id.at (1)(a), (5). Where there is a change in physical custody of the child, meaning the amount of overnights a parent has with the child has substantially changed, the child support modification may be made retroactive to the date when the physical change in custody occurred. Id. at (5).
Guidelines for Modifying Child Support
If the financial circumstances of a parent have changed sufficiently enough to justify a modification to an existing child support order, the guidelines for determining child support enumerated under C.R.S. § 14-10-115 will be applied to determine the new child support obligations for each parent.
The formula for determining child support is statutory and is designed to ensure a fair, consistent, and equitable determination of parental obligations in child support cases. Calculation worksheets can be found here on the Colorado Judicial Branch website to help individuals calculate and estimate their expected child support payments.
Generally speaking, the most important factors in child support calculations include:
– Gross income sources for the parents, inclusive of salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, pensions, rents, and other sources of income
– Health insurance premiums for the child
– The number of overnights per year the child is with each parent
– Other expenditures made on behalf of the child, inclusive of extracurricular activities, day-care expenses, etc.
See C.R.S. § 14-10-115(5). Other important considerations include where a parent is unemployed or underemployed, or is mentally or physically incapable of working. Where a parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court may make a determination of potential income and impute that income to the parent. See C.R.S. § 14-10-115(5)(b). Accordingly, even though a parent may not be working, the court may impute a salary to that parent and use that salary to calculate child support. Where a parent is mentally or physically incapable of working no imputation of income will be made.
Important exemptions to a parent’s income – that is, income sources that are not included in a parent’s income for child support calculations, are: wages earned from voluntary over-time or secondary jobs beyond a 40-hour workweek, child support payments received for other children, and certain benefits from public assistance programs. See C.R.S. § 14-10-115(5)(a)(II).
Automatic Review of Child Support Orders
While a party may make a motion to modify child support of their own accord, Colorado law also provides that child support enforcement agencies shall send notification to a child’s parents at least once every 36 months notifying them of their right to request a review of a child support order. See C.R.S. § 26-12-121.
Where a review is requested by one of the parents, the child support enforcement unit shall conduct that review and reassess the child support order based on the financial circumstances of the parents. Where there is a substantial change that would result in at least a 10% change to the child support order, the child enforcement unit may approve the modification and file a motion with the court where the child support order was issued requesting that the order be modified to reflect those changes. Id.at (3).
If a parent opposes the modification, he or she may contest the modification in the review with the child support enforcement unit and, also, with the court if a motion requesting modification is subsequently filed. Importantly, the court may grant the motion to modify child support even if a parent opposes the modification. Id. at (5).
© 2016 J.D. Porter, LLC; Jordan Porter. Denver, Colorado.