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When can a child support order be modified?

I get asked this question quite a bit. The applicable statue is 14-10-122. Essentially modification can occur under several circumstances. The most common circumstance is a change in income or number of overnight visits with the other parent that results in more than a 10% change in the support obligations that’s due. A change of that degree is considered a substantially continuing change in circumstances.

Other basis for modifying child support are less common and that would be if there isn’t a provision in the child support order that addresses the payment of health insurance and insured co-pays and civil or medical expenses for the child. You don’t see that as often because usually the courts address that in the original order.

Child support is based upon the gross income of the parties and also the number of overnight visits that the child has with each parent. That can become a source of dispute between the parties because if you have more than 92 overnights with your child then that affects the child support that you pay and that puts you on a different worksheet. I see a lot of jockeying to increase the number of overnight because in theory that would reduce the amount of child support that you have to pay the other party.

Other factors that go into the child support worksheet include health insurance premiums for the children. That’s a factor that if you pay health insurance premiums for the children you get a credit for that on the child support worksheet.

Another factor that is a source of a lot of disagreement is work related and school related daycare expenses. You get an adjustment for that on your child support worksheet so if you are paying a lot more in daycare that might be a basis to modify child support. Likewise if your children have transitioned from needing basically full-time daycare to now they’re attending school all or part of the time; that affects the amount of child support that is due and owing.

Other factors would include travel expenses for the child, where one of the parents is living out of town and the child has to travel to see that parent. Factors also would include a private school tuition, all those go into the child support worksheet. Clearly children change and people’s situations change through the years. If circumstances change and result in a 10% or greater change in the amount of child support that’s due and owing, you have the right to file a motion to modify child support.

Keep in mind that the court cannot modify child support if you don’t have a motion pending. The other issue that people run into is they have a change of circumstances and then there is a delay in filing their motion of modify child support. Once a child support payment become due and owing it is essentially a judgment for that month, so if you have a child support amount that you think is too high in January and you wait until February to file a motion to modify the court can’t do anything about payments that occurred prior to you filing your motion. If you think there has been a change in circumstances that warrants a modification of child support you should act promptly and contact an attorney.

A child support order can be modified if there is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances that results in a 10% or more change in the underlying support obligation. Examples would be a change in income of either party, a change in work or education-related childcare costs, a change in health insurance premiums, and other things that might change the amount of child support that’s due, so we would look at those factors and put that into a child support worksheet and look at what the guideline amount is recommended to be. If you have questions about your child support order, please call me at (303) 329-3802 so we can run some child support worksheets and figure out if your child support should be modified.

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