Colorado Standard to Modify Child Support
The standard to modify Colorado child support under C.R.S. 14-10-122 is that there has been a "substantial and continuing" change in circumstances, which means there would be at least a 10% difference in the child support owing. The parties cannot agree to make child support non-modifiable, though they do have flexibility to incorporate either an automatic modification provision, or clauses which make modification more difficult.
Typically, factors which lead to a Colorado child support modification include a significant change in income, reduced day care costs as the children get older, a changed parenting schedule, or fewer supported children when one emancipates. Having a child from a new relationship after the children covered by the support order cannot reduce support, however it can help to prevent a support increase.
The Colorado family law court will ordinarily modify child support retroactive to the date the motion to modify support was filed, unless:
- The court finds that it would cause "undue hardship or substantial injustice" (in which case support is modified as of a later date), or
- There has been a mutually-agreed change in physical custody (in which case support may be modified retroactive to the date of the change in custody).
Modifying Tax Exemptions
The tax exemption allocation is also subject to modification - even if the decree assigns the exemptions a certain way. Unless the parties agree otherwise at the time child support is modified, a Colorado divorce court is required to reallocate the tax exemptions in accordance with their proportional incomes.
Termination of Child Support
Support terminates automatically under Colorado law (C.R.S. 14-10-115(13)(a)), without the need to file a motion to terminate support, upon the last or only child reaching 19 years of age, unless:
- The parties signed an agreement after July 1, 1997 which provided for support to continue longer.
- The child is mentally or physically disabled.
- The child is in high school, or an equivalent program, in which case support continues until the end of the month following graduation..
- The child marries before turning 19 (support may be reinstated if the marriage ends while under 19).
- The child enters active duty military before turning 19.
Note that the automatic termination provision is only for the last child reaching 19. If there are still younger children for whom support is being paid, the obligor cannot unilaterally stop, or even modify, the support. Instead, he/she must file a motion to modify the child support obligation based upon there being fewer children to support.