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Retroactive Child Support Explained

father and child holding handsIn Colorado, the child support laws state that child support may be awarded or assessed back to the date when a divorce case was filed if the parties filed together or if the case was filed by the party who will be paying child support.  Otherwise, child support is calculated when a case if personally served on the other party.  An experienced attorney can assist you in determining the appropriate time to file an action to initiate or modify child support.

The concept of relating child support to a prior date (i.e. filing date or date or personal service), is known as retroactive child support. For example, let’s say that you served the other party with a divorce petition in the month of March but it takes until November for a Final Orders Hearing to resolve all financial issues including retroactive child support.  The courts will typically assess child support for the months prior to the hearing (e.g. March through November).  However, it is typical that the court factors in the aggregate of retroactive support owed and allows the payer to pay it in incremental amounts. These amounts are added to the current amount being paid until the back payments are paid in full. In these cases where the full retroactive amount owed is spread out over a reasonable time period, child support will seem higher than it is until the past due balance is paid in full.  Interest on the balance can be applied or added to the overall balance due or can be negotiated.

It is important to know that there are caveats in matters of retroactive child support. Retroactive child support is not at all a guarantee and is in the discretion of the courts based. For instance, a court may decline to award retroactive child support if they believe that doing so would result in undue financial hardship for one of the parties. Another more common factor is whether a party has been contributing to other child-related expenses while the case has been pending or waiting for a hearing date. For example, payments towards daycare, clothing or other child expenses can be used to offset or perhaps eliminate retroactive child support.  Since the offset or elimination is not guaranteed, it is essential to consult an attorney to protect your interests.  Imagine the nightmare of paying for the child-related expenses and then being assessed a full retroactive child support obligation, it absolutely happens.

An initial order of child support is not usually a permanent order.  Child support may be modified based on a substantial and continuing change in financial circumstances happening since the last child support determination.  Common examples of such changes include a change in income or the loss of a job.  Recall that child support may be modified retroactively to the date of a filing or personal service.  So, if you delay in filing a motion to modify after experiencing a change, you may not benefit from the change in child support for the time period between the change and the date of filing or service.  The timelines and factors get far too complicated when child support should be amended based on a voluntary change in physical custody of the children.  Given the complexity and the dramatic impact on the prior parenting plan, consult and experience family law attorney immediately if you are considering or have modified the physical custody arrangement.

Child support normally continues until a child emancipates or becomes financially independent.  The legal age of emancipation in Colorado is age 19 (not 18).  Accordingly, child support continues until a child turns 19; however, child support may not automatically terminate of there are additional younger children.  It is essential to modify child support based on a change in circumstances (i.e. a change in emancipation).

Whether you are experiencing a change in circumstance or whether you wish to initiate a child custody matter, contact The Drexler Law Group, a true family law firm in Colorado Springs, which can dedicate its impressive resources in your child support matter.

Posted in: Child Support
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