In my last blog post, I discussed whether or not a former spouse can subsequently request maintenance (or an increase in maintenance) if the other spouse’s life circumstances change for the better. (The short answer is: usually not, but, in some cases, it is possible.)
Child support is a different story. If you are in a situation where one former spouse pays the other former spouse child support, and life circumstances change, altering the financial picture, child support can (and should) be adjusted.
Gains or Benefits will be Considered
A parent has a responsibility toward his or her child(ren) until they come of legal age. Any gains or benefits the parent receives will always be considered concerning child support, although, in Colorado, a new spouse’s income will not be factored in the child support calculations.
The only way a new spouse’s income could factor in calculating child support payments is if the parent’s expenses are reduced due to a new marriage. Say the mother re-marries a wealthy man, and no longer has to pay the mortgage all on her own. Any reduction in her monthly costs can be reviewed to discern whether her child support payments should be adjusted.
COVID-19 Circumstances will be Considered
In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many child support cases into play over the last six months. Right now, most children across the country aren’t attending school in-person, and their remote learning can require significant oversight on behalf of the parent (depending on how old the children are).
Officially, the statute says that once a child is over twenty-four months old, both parents have to work and child support will be calculated based on income potential. [If a parent is not working, an income will be imputed to him/her.] These days, we have parents saying, “Wait a minute, this statute was passed during a time when my children would be in school from 8 am to 3:30 pm. Now, they’re home all day, not to mention that most daycare centers have closed. Not only am I supposed to be working, but I also have to teach my child.”
On September 9, 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported on a Brevan Howard Asset Management study that predicted 4.3 million American workers may have to quit their jobs in order to stay home with children, either to school them, or because daycare is not available.
If a parent is in that situation, they may argue that their earning potential should be considered $0 because they need to stay home and care for children.
I believe that in this kind of scenario, the Court will be most likely to view things realistically. While every situation is different, and the details always vary from case to case, in my experience, the Courts are always looking for a reasonable solution that will most benefit the children without putting undue strain on either parent — in other words, if one parent is truly forced to stay home and quit his or her job to teach and care for children, it is likely that the Court will be willing to review and possibly revise the child support agreement.
If you are dealing with changing circumstances surrounding your child support agreement, call our office at 303-449-1873 for a free consultation.