Family court in Colorado always focuses on the best interests of the child, including ensuring that responsible parties contribute to the financial support and well-being of their children. The courts look unfavorably upon those who become delinquent or fail to make their required child support payments. The balance of owed child support does not disappear and may, in fact, accrue interest if it remains unpaid.
Whether you are a child support payer or the payee, it’s important to understand the resources parents have in Colorado to enforce child support payments when they are in arrears.
What’s the First Step in Enforcing Child Support Payments in Colorado?
Typically the first step in enforcing delinquent child support payments is to file a motion for contempt. The court holds a person “in contempt” when they fail in their obligation to meet the requirements of a court order. There are two types of contempt motions in Colorado child support cases:
- Remedial contempt, in which the court is asked to jail the offender until they pay all or some of the owed child support with a plan for full repayment of arrears
- Punitive contempt, in which the parent owed the support asks the court to punish the payer in arrears by jail time or through monetary fines regardless of whether or not they catch up on the amount of support owed. This type of contempt charge typically requires proof that the payor had the means and ability to pay the amount owed yet refused to make the court-ordered payments.
The state of Colorado provides forms for filing motions for contempt in child support cases. You can also seek the help and advice of a Colorado family attorney to apply for action through the Child Support Enforcement Unit (CSEU).
What the Colorado Courts Can Do to Collect Back Child Support
When a court decides a payer is in contempt of their child support order, they take it very seriously. There are several ways the court can collect child support from payer parents in arrears:
- Garnish wages
- Intercept earnings such as tax returns, unemployment benefits, and lottery or gambling winnings
- Seize assets such as property and bank accounts
- Place liens on real estate property
- Place liens on personal property including cars and valuables
When courts make a determination for child support, it’s in the best interests of the child and essential for the child’s health, care, and well-being, which is the top priority of Colorado family courts. Failure to meet these obligations is a serious, actionable offense.
Are There Additional Penalties for Unpaid Child Support?
When a paying parent fails to meet their child-support obligation, the CSEU may report this failure to credit reporting agencies if the parent falls more than 60 days or $500 behind. This may have a negative impact on credit scores.
The court can also suspend commercial or recreational licenses once a paying parent becomes 6 months or more behind on child support payments or pays less than half of the amount owed per month. The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles may also suspend a personal driver’s license if a paying parent falls 30 or more days behind on their payments.
In the most extreme instances, a prosecutor may choose to file criminal charges which can result in a misdemeanor offense, fines, and jail time.
Child Support Payments and Parental Visitation Are Separate Legal Issues
Some parents mistakenly conflate child support payment obligations with parental visitation rights. A paying parent cannot withhold their court-ordered child support payments because a custodial parent isn’t allowing visitation. Instead, they must file a petition for enforcement of their visitation agreement and continue to make the payments required by law to care for their children.
If you have questions about your rights as a payor or payee of child support in Colorado, a Denver child support attorney can help you.