Post Decree Modification

Once entered as part of a Decree, property and debt divisions cannot be modified except in cases of fraud. However, matters concerning children can be modified as circumstances change (and with maturing children, they almost always change in some manner) and maintenance (spousal support or alimony) may change if the financial circumstances of either party changes significantly after the decree. 

Modifications to Parental Responsibilities
For a variety of reasons, including something as simple as the child’s increased maturity or as troubling as a bad situation for the child, a parent may seek a modification of decision-making, primary residency or parenting time sometime after the entry of the original divorce decree and court orders.

To change a child’s primary residency or the terms of the decision-making authority, one must show that the other parent has agreed to the change or that the child’s current circumstances endanger their physical health or emotional development and that the presumed hard of changing the child’s residency or decision-maker, is outweighed by the advantage of a change for the child. Without the other parent’s consent, these are high hurdles to prove, but may be appropriate under the circumstances for a particular child.

The modification of parenting time, particularly to increase the non-residential parent’s time with the child toward a more even division of time between households is far easier to establish, provided regard is given to the child’s academics, activities and peer interactions. To lessen the non-residential parent’s time, one must meet the endangerment/impairment standard for a change in residence.

Modifications to Maintenance
A modification of maintenance (spousal support or alimony) requires showing that there has been a change of circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the original determination of the amount and duration of maintenance unfair. As the Colorado statute requires, the changes must be substantial and continuing and there have been several cases decided by Colorado appellate courts establishing parameters for what is substantial and continuing. The Court can modify the amount or duration of spousal support to increase, decrease or terminate maintenance completely from the date of filing for modification.

Should a Motion for Modification be brought by one party or the other, the same kinds of financial disclosure required for entry of the decree is required to update the parties’ respective financial circumstances. Thereafter, if a substantial and continuing change of circumstances has been shown, the parties and the Court will consider the same factors as those utilized to set the support order initially.

Modifications to Child Support
As with a modification of spousal maintenance, a modification of child support requires showing that there has been a change of circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the original order inappropriate or that the original order did not provide for medical insurance or expenses of the child. If the parents’ incomes have changed enough to make a 10% change in the total child support calculation, it is presumed that child support should be modified. 

In addition to increases in parental income as a basis for modification, extraordinary expenses, medical needs, increased cost of health insurance and a variety of other facts can lead to child support being increased.