Just like marriage doesn't guarantee that couples will live “happily ever after,” a child support order doesn’t ensure that parents will actually make the necessary payments. When parents fail to meet their child support obligations, each state has laws designed to force compliance.
This article explains the ways Colorado enforces child support orders. If you have additional questions after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney for help.
You can only enforce child support agreements that are part of a court order. If you are receiving financial support from your child’s other parent based on an oral agreement, or even a written agreement that hasn’t been filed with or approved by a court, you won’t be able to enforce the agreement through the methods listed below, including contempt.
If you and the other parent agree on child support, you should have your child support agreement incorporated into a court order. File a “Stipulation Regarding Child Support Modification,” which you can do by filling out a form stipulationon the Colorado Judicial Branch website. The judge will issue a child support order based on your agreement and stipulation if he or she believes the amount of support meets your child’s best interests.
If you and the other parent can’t agree, you’ll need to file for child support by doing one of the following:
Colorado courts take the failure to pay child support very seriously, and the state offers numerous ways to collect overdue payments from delinquent parents.
The most common way of enforcing a child support order in Colorado is filing a “motion for contempt.” When a court holds someone in contempt, it means that the judge has decided that person violated a court order.
There are two types of contempt for child support in Colorado: punitive and remedial.
Filing a motion for “remedial contempt” means you’re asking the judge to place the other parent in jail until he or she pays some or all of the past due child support. You don’t have to prove that the other parent intentionally refused to pay support, just that child support hasn’t been paid. Just like its name sounds, the purpose of "remedial" contempt is to remedy the situation – in other words, getting the other parent to pay past due support.
Filing a motion for “punitive contempt” means you’re asking the court to punish the other parent for purposely refusing to pay child support. Unlike remedial contempt, you can ask the judge to sentence the other parent to jail time and/or impose a fine, whether the other parent catches up on child support or not. For a court to sentence the other parent to jail time or a fine, you have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the other parent had the ability to pay child support but refused to do so.
You can ask for a delinquent parent to be held in punitive contempt and remedial contempt in the same motion. You can also ask the court to order the other parent to pay for the attorney’s fees (and other costs) you incurred trying to enforce the child support order.
You can request contempt findings against a delinquent parent by:
You’ll file your motion at the clerk’s office of the district court for the county where your child lives. You’ll also attend a hearing, where a judge will decide whether you’ve proven that the other parent is in remedial and/or punitive contempt.
Once the court holds a delinquent parent in contempt of a child support order, there are several additional orders a judge can issue to collect payment, including the following:
The court can also order that CSEU intercept a delinquent parent’s earnings from any of the following sources:
Contact a local family law attorney if you have questions about garnishing income from other sources.
Some penalties are designed to encourage a delinquent parent to pay. For example:
In more serious cases, a prosecutor can file a criminal action against a parent for not paying child support. You can be convicted of a misdemeanor and sent to jail for a significant amount of time for refusing to financially support your children.
Failing to pay child support can also be a federal crime; CSEU sometimes refers egregious child support cases to federal prosecutors.
If you have any other questions about enforcing child support orders in Colorado, contact a family law attorney in your area for advice.