As family lawyers, we confront a lot of questions about child support. How can I get more child support? How can I pay less? I understand Lulu needs braces, but is it really also my responsibility to finance her eighth American Girl doll?
These questions swell when family situations change: one parent remarries a much wealthier person; Uncle Albert’s inheritance is passed along; or your ex-spouse wins the lottery (trust us, it happens). While all these seem like valid reasons for recalculating child support payments, the court specifically states there must be a “substantial and continuing change” in circumstances to even consider increasing or decreasing that monthly obligation. In Colorado, a “substantial change” typically translates to at least a 10 percent raise or reduction in the parent’s income— which means child support could be modified if Dad took a severe pay cut, not if he marries Georgina Bloomberg.
The other part of that equation is the “continuing change.” Although losing one’s job is certainly a “substantial change” in circumstances, Colorado courts have previously determined unemployment (or underemployment, for that matter) is only a temporary state of affairs and have refused to modify the amount of child support due in certain cases as a result. Similarly, the court declined to recalculate or abate the child support obligations of a man about to be incarcerated for six years, claiming jail time alone wasn’t justification enough for adjusting the existing arrangement.
Inheritances, prize winnings, and lottery proceeds, however, are considered “substantial changes” and have warranted modifications to child support in the past. A good Denver divorce lawyer could even prove that the rate of inflation has spurred a change in circumstances conducive to revising the amount of support needed or owed. In sum, the court is not interested in whether it would have awarded the same amount of child support based on the family’s current monetary situation, but whether the terms of the original agreement have become “unfair” in light of major changes to either parent’s finances.
The exception to these guidelines is, of course, a medical concern. If Lulu does suddenly need braces or, heaven forbid, surgery or long-term medication, then the court will step in to ensure the financial burden is shared by both parents.
Divorce Matters is well-versed in “substantial and continuing changes,” so please contact us if you would like to review your child support agreement!