Can I Modify Child Support Because of COVID-19?

covid-19 child support

COVID-19 is causing many changes in our society. Unfortunately, many people are now finding themselves out of work and without a steady paycheck. If you have lost your job or had your pay cut due to COVID-19, what should you do about your child support payments?

Changes to Child Support Payments

When the court sets a child support payment, it uses Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-117. The court based your child support payments off of incomes, allocation of parenting time, and expenses paid for things like work-related daycare, the child’s health insurance, and “extraordinary expenses.”

Now that your income has changed, you can file a motion requesting to change your child support payments. The court will use Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-122 to determine whether a change is appropriate. Under Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-122, the person requesting a change in child support must show that there are “changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unfair.” So, the question is whether a lay-off or reduction in hours due to COVID-19 qualifies under that standard. If your income has changed by 10% or more, this meets the “substantial” part of the test.

How are Courts Handling this Issue?

In the virtual town hall Ryan Kalamaya moderated with judges from the 5th Judicial District, this question came up. The panelists noted that the changes from COVID-19 are likely substantial, but may not be continuing. If your situation is going to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future, judges may be open to modifying your child support payments. However, judges are most likely going to be reluctant to make sweeping changes. Divorce courts are hesitant to make drastic changes because we do not know how long the current COVID-19 situation will last. For example, in Ventura County, California, the court ordered that parents should still follow child custody and visitation orders unless there are specific and articulable facts showing that a change is needed.

Further complicating things is if you receive benefits such as unemployment or a forgivable Payroll Protection Program loan from the federal stimulus package, this counts towards your income for child support.

What Steps Should you Take?

If you have lost your job or your pay has taken a substantial hit, negotiation is an option. Negotiating can provide a much more certain outcome that litigating an issue in court. Try talking with your co-parent to see if you can reach an agreement about child support payments we get past COVID-19. Make sure to put any agreement in writing.

However, if you aren’t able to work out child support issues with your co-parent, you do not want to wait to file a motion to modify child support. If the court modifies your child support payments, that applies from the time you file the motion. So, if you lost your job in April, but wait until July to file the motion, you are on the hook for full child support payments from April to July. This is the case even if the court rules in your favor. File your motion sooner than later. You can even ask the court to wait to rule on the motion until a specific time.

If you need help deciding what to do about child support payments, contact one of our divorce lawyers. We can help you decide what, if any, action to take during this difficult time.

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