Decrease Your Colorado Child Support & Alimony Payments

July 23, 2018 | Bill Henry

Colorado courts award child support and alimony based on the individual’s ability to pay. Courts, however, cannot predict the future. Sometimes circumstances change, and it’s appropriate to decrease child support or alimony payments.

The law is specific about when someone can decrease child support or alimony payments. This article covers some of the situations in which a decrease in support payments may be warranted.

Talk to Family Law Attorney About How to Decrease Child Support or Alimony

The courts are aware that life happens and situations change. If you or your ex has experienced a substantial change in circumstances that calls for a decrease in child support or alimony payments, set up some time to meet with a member of our Family Law Team. Call 303-688-0944 to set up your free case assessment.

Note: If you are paying child support and alimony, it is incredibly important that you stay current on your payments. The courts have several avenues to require you to make your child support payments.

Increase your saving by decreasing child support payments

Modify Support Payments Before You Fall Behind

If you are struggling to make your support payments and believe a decrease is warranted, act quickly. Don’t wait until you’re behind to file a request for modification. The amount you owe will not retroactively decrease. Your payments also will not disappear by filing bankruptcy.

As soon as your circumstances change, begin the process to decrease child support or alimony payments. Courts seldom allow a retroactive change; everything begins from the date that the petition for modification is filed.

Colorado Guidelines for Support Payments & Modifications

Colorado courts have statutory guidelines that provide direction when awarding alimony and child support. The complex formulas help judges arrive at fair support payments. Child support guidelines can be found in Colorado Revised Statute section 14-10-115. Alimony guidelines are in Colorado Revised Statute section 14-10-114.

Modifying Alimony

Decades ago, the state’s highest court held that alimony must be fair and not result in the payor’s inability to take care of his or her own needs.

“A court cannot make an [alimony] award which will impoverish the [payor].”
Colorado Supreme Court in Santilli v. Santilli, 169 Colo. 49 (1969)

In order for you to change your alimony payments, though, you must be able to show that the change in your circumstances are “so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unfair.” C.R.S. 14-10-122 (1)(a) 

We should note that contractual spousal maintenance agreements are outside the court’s jurisdiction and are not modifiable.

Modifying Child Support

Child support modifications are a little bit different. You still must prove a substantial and continuing change of circumstances, but the change in finances must result in a 10 percent or more difference per month.

“The circumstances of the parties at the time of the filing of a motion for modification of the child support order which results in less than a ten percent change in the amount of support due per month shall be deemed not to be a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.” C.R.S. 14-10-122 (1)(b) 

Decrease Your Payments Through Changed Circumstances

You can modify your payments using several different methods, but the most common and least litigious is to change your payments due to changed circumstances. This is about as simple as it sounds: when your situation changes after the initial child support and spousal support payments are set, you can apply to have the payments adjusted.

Unemployment & Disability

Involuntary Unemployment or Pay Reduction

Sometimes the unexpected happens: you are let go from your job or your employer institutes pay cuts. Whether you were laid off or received a reduction in pay, you may be able to modify your payments.

Quitting Your Job is Not Involuntary Unemployment

You cannot ask for modified payments if you voluntarily leave your job. If you quit your job, no matter what the reason, you are still accountable to maintain the same monthly payments that you did when you were employed. So if you are considering leaving your job, be sure to have enough saved up for your child support and maintenance payments.

Disability

Disability is just as undesirable as unemployment for all parties involved. A sudden disability can wreak havoc on your life and affect your ability to afford your current support payments.

Whether your income is decreased due to an inability to work or mounting rehabilitation costs, disability can affect your ability to pay.

If you are injured or disabled, avoid adding financial distress to your list of worries.

Alternative Forms of Income

It is important to know that Colorado counts various disability and unemployment payments as income for the purposes of awarding alimony and child support payments.

Gross Income for Determining Alimony 
  • social security benefits, including social security benefits actually received by a party as a result of the disability of that party
  • workers’ compensation benefits
  • unemployment insurance benefits
  • disability insurance benefits
  • funds held in or payable from any health, accident, disability, or casualty insurance to the extent that such insurance replaces wages or provides income in lieu of wages
    C.R.S. 14-10-114
Gross Income for Determining Child Support
  • social security benefits, including social security benefits actually received by a parent as a result of the disability of that parent or as the result of the death of the minor child’s stepparent
  • workers’ compensation benefits
  • unemployment insurance benefits
  • disability insurance benefits
  • funds held in or payable from any health, accident, disability, or casualty insurance to the extent that such insurance replaces wages or provides income in lieu of wages
    C.R.S. 14-10-115

Increase in Former Spouse’s income

Not all reasons for decreasing your child support and/or spousal support payments are negative. If your former spouse gets a substantial raise or a new, better-paying job, then you can ask for a modification in your payments.

While added income is always great news, this situation should be handled with care with the custodial parent. Strong demands for a reduction in payments will likely be met with an equally aggressive denial. Yes, you can take the matter to the courts, but the responsibility falls to you to prove that your former spouse’s additional income is enough to replace the payments you’re making. If your ex will not agree to a modification, then you must file the petition as soon as possible, as the change is not retroactive.

A civil discussion between you and your ex can go a long way in helping you reduce your monthly payments.

Former Spouse is Cohabitating 

Payments from the noncustodial parent can also go down when the custodial parent has a significant other who move in and contributes in a substantial way to the household and child care costs. This, of course, depends on how the separation agreement was written.

Once again, this can be a slightly tricky topic to broach with your former spouse, so tread lightly and try to manage the arrangement as delicately as possible. The burden of proof that the new income is enough to warrant a decrease in payments is largely on the noncustodial parent. If you don’t approach your ex for a civil discussion beforehand, you could wind up costing yourself more than you save.

Decreasing Your Payments Through Custody

Your child support payments and maintenance are not based solely on income. The courts use the amount of parenting time you have with your children as one of the variables in the formula for establishing your payments.

Modification Based on Parenting Time Changes 

One way to decrease your child support payments is to increase your parenting time, which can be a doubly positive situation. Develop a new parenting time schedule and discuss it with the custodial parent. If you can come to an agreement on increased time spent with your children, you not only get to see your children more, you can also file for a modification of your child support payments since you are directly responsible for them while they are at your home.

Teenage children have a larger say in which parent they live with. If they decide that they would prefer to live with you, you can file to modify your support payments based on the change in custody.

Terminate Support for Children Who are No Longer Minors

In Colorado, once your child turns 19 they are no longer considered a minor and therefore no longer eligible for child support. If your child turns 19 during the middle of his or her senior year of high school, the courts will likely require you to continue payments until they graduate.

It is worth noting that Colorado has an exemption that extends child support payments for adult children with physical or mental disabilities. If these children are unable to support themselves, both parents must continue to offer them financial support.

Colorado law is complex. If you have a disabled child, talk to your lawyer to get more insight into the state regulations

Decrease Your Payments Through Mediation

If you have unique circumstances that are not covered by the standard provisions for changing your support payments, you can hire a mediator to help you and your former spouse come to a mutually agreeable support payment.

Unless your divorce was extremely amicable, using a mediator when dealing with the specific details can help you both through these decisions. These trained and experienced professionals can help you and your ex navigate contentious topics like children, money and significant others, without escalating the discussion into a confrontation.

Keep in mind that a mediator’s objective is to reach a settlement. This is important to consider because while mediators do have formal training, they are not bound to reach an equitable agreement and are subject to persuasion and strong personalities. You will still need to advocate for your best interests or have your attorney in the room to help.

Decrease Your Payments Through Litigation

Many of the items that must be divided in divorce carry with them extreme emotions, which can cause couples to bristle quickly. A professional, experienced attorney will represent your best interests and create a buffer for some of the more volatile topics, like support payments.

Hire an Attorney to Fight for the Lowest Possible Payments

As your lawyers, we use our knowledge of divorce law to minimize your child support and maintenance payments and maximize the time you get to spend with your children. Lawyers are more familiar with the formulas used to calculate support payments, and we will work with you to ensure the most favorable outcomes.

Prove your Spouse is Underemployed

Proving that your former spouse is underemployed can be a difficult task which is why it is important to have the help of a lawyer. You may need to provide some of the necessary evidence and paperwork, but we will work to demonstrate that the custodial parent could be earning more than they currently are and request that the court attribute income to them. Your attorney may need to call a vocational/career expert witness to provide testimony on salary expectations for their job in order to reduce your monthly payments. The experienced professionals at Robinson & Henry can help guide you through the process.

Find Out How You May be Able to Decrease Child Support or Alimony

We understand that one of your priorities as a parent is supporting the welfare and growth of your children, both financially and emotionally. We will keep that in mind as we fight for fair child support and spousal maintenance payments. However, you should not be forced to pay support that limits your ability to support your own welfare and growth. Call 303-688-0944 to set up a free case assessment with a family law attorney.

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