Parents who fall behind on child support payments accumulate child support arrearages and your payment status becomes “in arrears,” which may cause a court investigation. No matter the reason, if you aren’t paying court-ordered child support, you’ll most likely receive a notice in the mail asking you to appear in front of a family court judge to explain why you aren’t making child support payments.
Sometimes the paying parent can bypass a conversation with the family court judge by calling their caseworker to explain their financial situation and to plan on how they’ll pay what’s past due. Some family law courts require non-custodial parents to pay arrearages in full, but others allow payor parents to make installment payments on the arrearages alongside the court-ordered payments.
If the unpaid support is substantial, you may lose your driver’s and other professional licenses, and the state of Colorado may garnish your tax refund or you may go to jail. In Colorado you can enforce child support orders in the following ways:
How do You Enforce Child Support Orders When the Non-Custodial Parent Isn’t Paying?
Colorado family law courts take failing to pay child support seriously, and the state provides many ways to collect past due payments from delinquent parents.
In Colorado, one of the most common ways of enforcing a child support order is filing a “motion for contempt.” When the court holds a person in contempt, it means that the person violated a court order.
In Colorado, there are two types of motions for contempt for child support: remedial and punitive.
Motion for Contempt
When you file a motion for “remedial contempt,” this means you’re asking the court to place the payor parent in jail until he or she pays some or all of unpaid child support. Here, you need not prove that the other parent intentionally refused to pay support, you only need to prove that child support hasn’t been paid. The purpose of “remedial” contempt is to correct the situation by getting the noncustodial parent to pay overdue child support.
And if you file a motion for “punitive contempt,” this means you’re asking the judge to punish the child support payor for purposely refusing to pay support. Unlike remedial contempt, you can ask the family law judge to sentence the payor parent to impose a fine and/or jail time, whether the payor parent catches up on child support payments or not. For a court to sentence the payor parent to a fine or jail time, you must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the payor parent could make child support payments but refused to do so.
You can ask for a non-paying to be held in remedial contempt and punitive contempt in the same motion. Also, you can ask the judge to order the delinquent parent to pay for the attorney’s fees and other legal costs you incurred attempting to enforce the child support order.
You can request contempt findings against a payor parent by:
- Filing a motion for enforcement on your own, using forms from the State of Colorado website.
- Hiring an experienced family law attorney to file the motion of contempt on your behalf, or
- Applying for enforcement actions through the Colorado Child Support Enforcement Unit (CSEU).
You can file your motion for enforcement at the clerk’s office of the district court for the county where your child resides. Also, you’ll need to attend a contempt hearing, where a family court judge will decide whether you’ve proven that the delinquent parent is in punitive and/or remedial contempt.
Once the court holds the payor parent in contempt of a child support order, there are various orders a judge can issue to collect child support payments, which include:
- Garnish (seize) income earnings
- Garnish assets, such as bank accounts and property
- Place liens on real property, such as land or a house
- Place liens on personal property, such as cars or other valuable properties, and
- Force a delinquent parent to sell personal property.
Also, the judge may order that CSEU intercepts the non-paying parent’s earnings from any of the following sources:
- IRS income tax refunds,
- Unemployment compensation benefits,
- State lottery winnings,
- Gambling winnings, and
- Income earned from the state of Colorado.
Contact an experienced attorney if you have questions regarding garnishing earnings from other sources.
Penalties for Not Paying Child Support
Further, some penalties are imposed to encourage a delinquent parent to pay past-due support. For instance:
- Occupational, recreational, and professional licenses may be suspended when non-paying parents are six months behind and paying less than 50% of their monthly child support amount.
- When delinquent parents fall $500 or 60 days behind in child support payments, the CSEU reports the delinquency to credit reporting agencies, which may lower credit scores.
- When delinquent parents are at least 30 days behind on support payments, the CSEU reports these delinquencies to the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles. If the payor parent doesn’t catch up on child support payment within 30 days of this notice or negotiate a payment plan, the DMV may suspend his or her driver’s license.
In severe cases, the prosecutor may file a criminal action against a delinquent parent for not paying child support. The delinquent parent may be convicted of a misdemeanor offense and sent to jail for a significant amount of time because of failing to pay child support.
Not paying child support is also a federal crime and the CSEU sometimes refers serious child support cases to federal prosecutors. If you have questions regarding the enforcement of child support orders in Colorado, contact our experienced family law attorneys today at (719) 225-4443, or chat with us online to learn how we can help.
Do I Still Have to Pay My Ex-Child Support if They Keep Me Away From My Children?
Yes. Don’t confuse child support obligations with child custody and visitation rights, which are different legal issues. If you have visitation rights and your ex-spouse is keeping you from your children, you must petition the court to enforce your visitation rights. It’s essential to note that every parent has an obligation to support their children, so being kept away from your kids isn’t an excuse to refuse to pay court-ordered child support.
Thus, if the custodial parent disappears with your children for a lengthy period of time, the judge might rule that you’re temporarily excused from paying child support. However, the right course of action is to continue paying child support and have the family court judge enforce your visitation rights.
How Can a Child Support Attorney Help?
If a child support attorney in Colorado Springs is representing you in your child support case—and you can afford to pay additional fees—ask your attorney to contact your ex or their attorney. Sometimes, a letter or email from an authority figure is all it takes to encourage a delinquent parent to pay past-due support.
However, if your ex claims he can’t pay, you might need to negotiate a payment plan with them, modify the child support amount, or go back to court. If the payor parent suffers a reduction in income or a job loss, the court might recalculate child support based on the lower earnings. However, before you agree to reduce the child support amount, you need to confirm that your ex’s claims are true and not just an attempt to avoid paying support.
If you suspect your ex is attempting to shirk their obligation, it’s a good idea to involve the court. When considering a child support motion, a family law judge will require both parents to provide proof of their current earnings and assets. If your ex is intentionally reducing his income to avoid paying child support, for example, by resigning from a high-paying job and taking up a lower-paying one, or by working fewer shifts to reduce his earnings, the court can impute income to him and order him to continue paying the original amount of support.
Contact Our Experienced Colorado Springs Child Support Attorneys Today for Legal Advice!
With decades of experience in family law in Colorado, our skilled Colorado Springs family law attorneys can help you find a favorable solution to your child support dispute. At Brighter Day℠ Law, we’re committed to helping you recover missing child support payments. Let us know about your unique situation, and we’ll be in touch to see how Brighter Day℠ Law can help you find answers and creative solutions to your child support issues. To schedule an initial consultation, contact our law office in Colorado Springs today at (719) 225-4443.