Once the court issues a child support order as part of a divorce case, its terms are inflexible. The spouse that must make child support payments cannot choose to skip a month or change the support amount without court approval. The only way to modify a child support order in Colorado is to undergo a specific legal process and receive official approval from a judge. A judge will only give this approval if the petitioning spouse has a valid reason for the modification.
When Might Modification Be Necessary?
A parent might need to modify a child support order if his or her circumstances have changed. If a parent loses a job, for example, and can no longer meet the child support order requirement, that parent may need to request a modification to the order. In Colorado, the courts will only consider modification requests if a parent has experienced a substantial and continuing change in circumstances since the date the court issued the initial order.
Change in income
Substantial promotion or demotion
A change in the child’s circumstances
New medical or dental needs for the child
Special education needs
A change in the number of annual overnight stays
A child becoming emancipated
These are common situations in which the courts may accept a request for child support modification. The change in circumstances, however, cannot be something the parent fabricates to avoid paying child support. The courts will often request documentation to prove the change in circumstance. The courts will not accept a modification request if the parent has created the situation him/herself, such as by buying an expensive car or boat.
How to Ask the Courts for Child Support Modification
If you lose your job or something else happens that makes it necessary to change how much you pay in child support, start gathering documentation that will help prove that your current circumstances are substantially different than when you first got divorced. If you are the spouse that receives child support, you also have the power to request modification. This may be necessary if your spouse has gotten a new job or you are responsible for more overnight stays, but your spouse has not voluntarily offered to pay more money.
You must submit your child support order modification request in writing to the Child Support Enforcement Unit in your county. You must sign the request. Your request must also include a Sworn Financial Statement (or Income and Expense Affidavit) that gives details about your debts, assets, and income. Give your reason for requesting the change, as well as the new amount you are requesting. You must base the new amount on calculations using an official calculator. Include a Child Support Worksheet that breaks down your calculations.
Once you have provided the courts with all the information and documentation they need, you may have to appear in court for a hearing. Whether or not this will happen depends on the judge presiding over your case. The judge will have 49 days after you file your request to either schedule a hearing or make a decision without a hearing. If a hearing is necessary, you will need to explain to the judge why you believe the modification is necessary. You can hire an attorney to help you with this process.