Child Support Modifications and Enforcement
When your marriage breaks down in Denver, CO, it can be a painful and stressful process, so you may want to entirely cut ties with your former spouse. Similarly, when a romantic relationship ends badly, even if it is not a marriage, it is normal to want to disengage from your partner entirely. While that is a valid desire, it is not always possible if you share children.
As your relationship ends, you will have to come to an agreement on how your children will be cared for. This includes deciding who will have primary custody, which parents can make legal and medical decisions about their child, and how much child support will be required from the non-custodial parent.
Deciding on the amount of child support can be a difficult process, especially since paying child support can be a significant financial commitment for the parent, but it is important to finalize it and ensure that the interests of the children are met. Once the child support agreement is reached, it may need to be changed or enforced due to a relocation, a new job, or a failure to pay. The experienced family law attorneys at Woody Law Firm, LLC, can help you with your child support agreement, including modifying an existing agreement or enforcing it when a parent does not pay properly.
Calculating Child Support
One of the primary aspects of a child support order is determining how much a parent will need to pay each month to ensure that their child’s needs are met. Colorado requires that both parents contribute to the support and well-being of their children, regardless of whether they have primary custody. Factors such as the income of each parent, the educational needs of the children, and the children’s standard of living are considered when child support is calculated.
There are several ways that the necessary amount of child support is determined in Colorado.
- Income Share: The goal when establishing any child support orders is to ensure that the interests of the children are at the forefront and that their lifestyle is the same as it would have been if their parents were together. As a result, Colorado law requires that both the custodial and non-custodial parents be responsible for the care and support of their shared children through an income-share model. The total income of both parents will be calculated, and that sum will be used to determine how much of the gross income will be used to support their children. Each parent will be required to contribute a certain amount to their children each month, though the amounts may not be equal. If, for example, one parent works full time, and the other primarily has stayed at home, then the parent with a higher income will pay more of the support.
- Minimum Child Support Obligation: In some circumstances, the parents may not have enough combined income to fully support their children, particularly if they live in poverty or are low income. These cases allow for a minimum obligation for child support, especially if the parents are in school full time or are unable to work. The minimum obligation is calculated according to the number of children, so parents with one child will contribute $50 each month, while parents with six or more children will contribute $150 monthly.
Various factors, like income and medical needs, will be taken into consideration when child support is calculated. Ideally, once a child support order is in place, it will stay in place for many years so that a court process can be avoided. In some circumstances, however, that is not possible, and a child support order will need to be modified.
Modifying Child Support Orders
A parent’s circumstances, such as their living expenses, income, and debts, can easily change over time. When that happens, and there is a child support order in place, the order may need to be changed to accurately reflect the new reality. This can only happen, according to Colorado law, when a parent has experienced a change of at minimum 10%.
It is important to note that this only applies to the income that each parent makes, not to any additional income if one parent were to remarry. If your former partner marries someone who is wealthy and contributes a great deal to the well-being of your child, it does not mean that your child support order will change unless the other parent is also earning more money along with their new spouse.
If you believe that your child support order should be reviewed and potentially modified, then you will have to file a request with the child support office in the county where your case is being managed. This request will have to include an Income and Expense Affidavit, a list of reasons why you believe that the child support order should be changed, and any other documentation that can support your claim. The child support office will then review your request, which can take as long as six months, before letting you know if the child support order will be increased, stay at the same amount, or decrease as a result of the review.
Enforcing a Child Support Order
Child support orders are taken extremely seriously in Colorado because it is essential to ensure that the children impacted by them are properly cared for. Some parents, either due to a lack of care or because of financial difficulties, do not pay their child support properly. When this happens, the other parent, or a family law attorney, can file a motion for contempt which, if accepted, means that the individual violated a court order.
There are two types of contempt motions that can be filed:
- Remedial Contempt: If a parent is found to be in remedial contempt, then they will be placed in jail until at least some of their past due child support is paid.
- Punitive Contempt: If a parent is found to be in punitive contempt, it means that they have intentionally not paid their required support and can be punished with either a fine or time spent in jail.
When you file a motion for contempt, you can request that the other parent be held in both remedial and punitive contempt if the situation is dire enough. It is also possible to ask that the parent who has failed to pay their support be held responsible for any costs you incurred from trying to enforce the order, including attorney fees and supporting your children on your own.
There is an organization in Colorado that enforces child support orders, called the Child Support Enforcement Unit (CSEU). If you apply for assistance from the CSEU, they will work to enforce any penalties that are necessary to ensure that the delinquent parent pays the support that they owe.
Penalties for Not Following a Child Support Order
When a parent fails to pay their portion of child support and is found in contempt, there are several steps that can be taken to ensure that the child support is paid. Some of these require a court order, such as garnishing wages, while others impact the parent personally or professionally.
Court orders can include:
- Seized wages
- Garnished assets, including bank accounts
- Liens placed on personal and real property, including homes, vehicles, or valuable items
- Lottery winnings seized
- Support taken from unemployment benefits
- The parent being forced to sell property to pay overdue support
- Winnings earned from gambling seized
- Support taken from an income tax return
There are some penalties that do not take the support money directly from the parent but rather encourage them to pay through professional or personal reprimands. These may include:
- Delinquent child support payments of 60 days or $500 may be reported to credit agencies. This could negatively impact a parent’s credit score and, as a result, delay or prevent major purchases.
- If a parent is paying less than 50% of their required child support, and are six months behind in payments, then they may have licenses, such as CPA licensure or a hunting license, suspended until they are caught up and paying the correct amount.
- Parents risk having their license suspended by the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles if they are 30 days behind on child support payments and do not make it right within another 30 days.
Woody Law Firm, LLC, Can Help With Your Child Support Orders
As a parent, you want to ensure that your children are provided for, have their medical needs met, and can live a lifestyle that makes them happy and healthy. Child support orders help make this possible, but they are often not a one-time process. Your child support order may need to be modified if the non-custodial parent loses their job or another source of income. If a non-custodial parent does not pay their required child support regularly, then steps will need to be taken to enforce the order and ensure that the children have what they need. The team of family law attorneys at Woody Law Firm, LLC, can ensure that your child support order is created in the interest of your children and enforced effectively. Contact us today for all your child support needs.