Modifications to parenting plans, decision-making, and child support are almost inevitable in most family law cases with children. As children and families grow, the needs of the children change. Often times parents handle these modifications outside of the court process. A caution on informal modifications; if it is not a court order it cannot be enforced.
Easiest way to modify prior parenting orders, including parenting time, decision-making, and child support is via stipulation of both parties. If each party agrees, a stipulation can be presented to the Court for the judge to adopt and make it a lawful order.
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A parenting plan may be modified as to small adjustments at any time. This may be switching the exchange day or exchange location. Small adjustments do not substantially change either parents number of overnights.
A parenting plan may be modified as to large adjustments once every two years after the first modification. There can be many reasons to modify parenting plans. The kids may be getting older, one parent may seek to relocate with the children out of state, or the locations of the parties may substantially change within the metro area.
If the parenting plan was made when your children were very young and it is now they are teenagers, it may be time to modify the order. Older children can have a voice in what the structure may look like; but ultimately, the decision lies with the parents. We caution parents to not try to influence a child for or against a parenting plan and instead work with parents to ensure that they are fostering a relationship with the other parent.
Modifications that are based on one parents desire to relocate out of the state with the child are not easily granted in Colorado. One of the main reasons is because the non-relocating parent‘s relationship with the children would be substantially hindered. It does not mean that a court would never grant such a request but it would require a balance of interests, one being the impact to the non-moving parent. Relocation cases require a case by case evaluation. We encourage parents to call and find out more if a parent has requested to relocate or if you would like to relocate with minor children.
Decision making (generally referred to as custody) may be modified, either by agreement of the parties or by a new order of the court. As with major parenting time changes, a request to modify decision-making can only be filed once every two years. If the parents cannot agree on modification of decision-making, the parent that is requesting the modification has the burden of proving a change in the circumstances of the child or party whom has decision-making and it serves the best interest of the child.
In determining if a modification should occur, we would look to the current order and if it is working or if it has been outgrown by your children. Is one party making the majority of the decisions and the other is blindly following, it may be time to modify decision-making.
Modifications of child support should occur periodically throughout the child’s life. You and your ex-spouse’s incomes will change over the years. It is best to conduct a child support audit every few years to see if there has been more than a 10% change in the support order. If there has, it may be time for a modification, if there has not, a modification is most likely not warranted.
Other expenses may change for your child as well, such as the cost of health insurance and extra-ordinary expenses such as braces.
It may be tough to approach your ex-spouse about a request for modification of current support orders, especially if you are asking to receive more in support or asking to pay less in support. An advantage to retaining an attorney is that you have a professional to guide you through the process and have tough conversations with the other party.