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Either party can petition the court for a modification of a child support order at any time, however, for such a request to be successful, a court must find that there has been a “substantial and continuing” change of circumstances since the last order. The court can also make a change if the parties failed to include provisions addressing medical support, for example if the parties did not designate who will be responsible for medical insurance premiums.
What Constitutes a “Substantial” Change?
Courts will typically not view a change as “substantial” unless it would result in more than a 10 percent change in the child support payment pursuant to the Colorado guidelines. Experienced family law attorneys have the latest software to analyze your financial situation and advise you regarding the Colorado Guidelines. If an application of the guidelines would result in more than a 10 percent change, a rebuttable presumption exists that a modification of child support must be granted. In other words, it will be up to the other party to prove why the change should not be made.
What Does “Continuing” Mean?
Additionally, the change must be “continuing,” meaning, it cannot be a temporary change. In a Colorado case called McVay v. Johnson, the court denied a request for modification of child support based on the fact that the obligor (the person required to pay child support) was unemployed. McVay v. Johnson, 727 P.2d 416 (Colo.App.1986). The court in McVay found that even though the obligor had been laid off, that fact only constituted a temporary change and not a substantial and continuing change as required by the statute.
Collecting Child Support
Once a modification is ordered, the next step is collecting the payments. One effective method for collection child support is to request an income assignment directly from the wages of the obligor pursuant to C.R.S. § 14- 14-111.5. An income assignment is an excellent way to provide consistent, automatic payments. In order to activate the income assignment, the obligee (the person receiving child support) or his or her attorney must serve the other party’s employer with a notice to withhold income for support. Experienced family law attorneys will often contact the employer, trustee or other legal payor for the obligor and arrange for service of the required notice.
Child support payments take priority over any other garnishment, lien or attachment. This means that if the other party is being garnished for judgments stemming from unpaid debts, the child support payment will be paid first. Details on the priority of orders from previous domestic cases can be found in C.R.S. § 14-14-111.5(6)(b).