Enforcing Child Support Orders
Child support cases can become contentious when either parent perceives they are being treated unfairly. Invariably, the parent slated to receive child support will feel that he or she is not receiving enough of a monthly amount to meet the financial needs of the children. Conversely, the parent slated to pay child support will feel that he or she is paying too much, thereby also impacting his or her ability to meet financial needs, whether their own or those related to the children. Child support can be a touchy subject in any divorce or child custody case. The emotions and concerns that arise when dealing with financial issues and cash flow only increase when child support orders are not complied with. Rest assured, there are multiple options for dealing with child support arrears and enforcing your child support orders when the other parent fails to pay. The Denver area child support lawyers at Plog & Stein are highly experienced when it comes to enforcing child support orders and collecting child support arrears. In each case, our first step is to understand the facts and circumstances tied into the noncompliant parent’s financial and employment situation. This information will help us determine what may be the most efficient, cost effective, and practical remedy to pursue when it comes to both enforcing your orders and collecting your back support. The list of potential remedies includes:
- Wage Garnishments (Income Withholding)
- Support Judgments
- Collection of Interest
- Asset Garnishments
- Contempt of Court
- Working with County Child Support Enforcement Units
- Negotiating Structured Collection Agreements
Colorado courts take child support orders seriously. The attorneys at Plog & Stein do, too.Understanding Your Rights and Options Related to Child Support Arrears.
When one parent owes child support and is employed, enforcing child support orders can be as simple as issuing a wage garnishment for the prospective child support to be paid. Funds will be taken out of the payer’s check and given to the recipient, generally through what is called the Family Support Registry. In some instances, arrears can also be included in a wage assignment (Income Withholding Order). In most cases, a wage assignment can be issued without even filing a motion with the court. Unfortunately, not everyone maintains a job, and some people refuse to work or just don’t work at all.
In addition to issuing an income withholding, and regardless of whether someone is employed, another effective tool to look into is the filing of a Verified Entry of Support Judgment. Child support orders are intended to be followed and will usually come with specifics, such as a monthly amount, how it will be paid, and a specific pay date, or dates. C.R.S. 14-10-122 sets forth that when a child support payment is missed, it becomes a monetary judgment. It also sets forth that that payment (judgment) starts accruing compound interest at the rate of 12% per year, with compounding occurring monthly. To effectuate or solidify converting the child support arrears to a judgment, a verified entry of support judgment must be filed with the court. In addition to calculating the arrears, we also do a comprehensive interest a calculation. Interest in child support cases can accrue quickly and in cases with arrears that are several years old, the interest may be close to, or even exceed, the principal. Once the support judgment is entered, additional wages can be seized, up to 65% of the payer’s disposable income. Again, not everyone works. However, with the support judgment, assets such as bank or investment accounts can also be levied, meaning funds are frozen, then ultimately released to the recipient.
In cases in which the defaulting parent does not work, has no assets, or just elects to utilize all efforts to avoid paying, contempt of court may be the only viable option. Contempt will generally also be the most expensive avenue to pursue, but does come with the potential for an award of attorney fees when remedial orders are entered. With a contempt of court motion, a jail sentence of 180 days is a possible outcome. The threat of jail can sometimes be a powerful tool to aid in enforcement.
When the payer lives out of state, other issues arise which may necessitate transferring the child support aspects of your case to that state becoming the best option. Though the payer is certainly, personally subject to Colorado’s jurisdiction, assets or income may not be reachable unless held or administered by companies which do business in Colorado. Likewise, though the payer would certainly be subject to Colorado’s jurisdiction in a contempt of court case and would face issuance of an arrest warrant for failing to appear, the reality is that no one is going to extradite him or her back to Colorado if ultimately arrested in the other state. Given the interstate challenges that can arise when the other party is out of state, sometimes we advise clients to do what can be done in Colorado, to be followed by registering the case in that other state for additional enforcement action.
Each county also maintains a Child Support Enforcement Unit, which can also assist in collecting back child support. At times, our attorneys work in tandem with the County related to child support issues. Having the County involved can be helpful in that places of employment can be tracked down, licenses (professional and driver’s) can be suspended, income tax refunds can be seized, and holds can be put of passports until the arrears are paid off. However, the County will not calculate interest and can be slower than a private attorney in taking action. Moreover, the county may settle on lesser repayment terms than might be forced in a completely private setting.
If you are facing a child support enforcement issue and don’t know where to turn, your starting point should be meeting with one of our attorneys to comprehensively assess your situation and figure out the best strategy for enforcing your orders. The only goal of the child support attorneys at our Denver firm have is the best possible outcome for the client. Let us put our over 70 years of combined legal experience to work for you!
Call us at (303) 781-0322 or contact us on line to request an in-person consultation.