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Motion to Modify Child Support Asks for a Reduction in the Support Obligation, but Results in an Increase

Denver_skyline.jpgA motion to modify child support did not go the way a father and ex-husband probably hoped. The father sought to reduce his monthly child support obligation, but the trial court raised it instead. The Colorado Court of Appeals denied the father’s appeal, holding in part that alleged misconduct by the wife did not entitle the father to modification of the child support amount. In re the Marriage of Roddy and Morelli, No. 13CA0632, slip op. (Col. App., Jul. 31, 2014).

The parties were divorced in 2003. The decree of dissolution stated that their minor child would reside primarily with the wife, and that the father would pay $3,000 per month in child support. He filed a motion to modify child support about eight years later, seeking a reduction in the monthly amount based on an increase in parenting time and a decrease in income. Colorado law generally allows modifications to child support if a movant can show “changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing.” C.R.S. 14-10-122(1)(a). After a three-day hearing, however, the court increased the father’s monthly child support obligation to $4,604.

The father filed a motion for post-trial relief, alleging that the wife withheld financial records, and that this entitled him to relief under the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure’s disclosure requirements. C.R.C.P. 16.2(e)(10). During the modification hearing, the trial court had found the wife’s 2011 tax return to be “the only remotely credible source of information” about her income. Roddy at 1-2. The trial court denied the post-trial motion, though, holding that the wife’s income was not relevant to the issue of modification regardless of any alleged misconduct. The father appealed both the child support order and the post-trial order.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal of the child support order as untimely. The trial court entered that order on November 13, 2012. The Colorado Appellate Rules gave him 49 days to appeal. C.A.R. 4(a). He filed a notice of appeal of both the child support and post-trial orders about 15 days after the 49-day period ended. The Court of Appeals held that it could hear the appeal of the post-trial order, but that it lacked jurisdiction over the child support order.

The father’s appeal of the post-trial order raised two major points of error. He alleged that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to rule that the wife violated C.R.C.P. 16.2(e)(10), which he claimed required her to disclose “all material assets and liabilities,” or by failing to find that she committed fraud under C.R.C.P. 60(b)(2). The Court of Appeals found that Rule 16.2(e)(10) did not apply to the father’s case, and that even if it did, it did not give the court the authority to modify the child support amount. On the father’s Rule 60(b)(2) fraud claim, the court held that he failed to show that any alleged fraud “impaired [his] ability fairly and fully to litigate a material issue in the case.” Roddy at 10.

Post-divorce proceedings in Colorado, such as modifications of child support or visitations, require careful review and planning. A knowledgeable and skilled Colorado family law attorney can help you understand your obligations and rights under Colorado law, and can advocate for your interests in court. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our legal team, please contact us today through our website or at 303-502-9422.