In Colorado, failure to pay child support can result in a judgment issued by the court. The judge may find an individual in contempt of court for failure to pay child support, resulting in a possible arrest and jail time.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What are child support requirements in Colorado?
- 2. What happens if I don’t pay child support?
- 3. What if the court issues a judgment against me?
- 4. Can the court garnish my wages?
- 5. Can the court seize my property or bank account?
- 6. What happens if I am found in contempt of court?
- 7. How can I clear up an arrest warrant for failure to pay child support?
- 8. What if I can’t pay child support?
The court may order either or both parents owing a duty to support a child to pay an amount of money that is reasonable or necessary for the child’s support. The amount of child support is based on:
- The financial resources of the child;
- The financial resources of the custodial parent;
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed;
- The physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child; and
- The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.
The specific requirements for court-ordered child support should be detailed in the court documents. This includes the amount of child support to be paid, the payment period, and the place of payment.
Child support payments are regulated by Child Support Services (CSS), a division of the Colorado Department of Human Services. The mission of CSS is to ensure children receive financial and medical support from parents, including locating parents, establishing child support obligations, and enforcing child support obligations.
The state of Colorado has a number of ways to enforce child support payments. This includes financial enforcement and contempt of court charges. CSS can issue a judgment for any amount of child support that is overdue or unpaid.1
Judicial actions include placing a lien on real estate, personal property, or motor vehicles. CSS also has the authority to garnish wages to satisfy past-due obligations, intercept tax refunds or lottery winnings, and report failure to pay to credit bureaus.
Failure to pay child support can also lead to contempt of court charges. Contempt of court charges can result in a fine and jail time, at the discretion of the court. Failure to pay can also lead to a denial of a passport application, driver’s license suspension, or professional license suspension.
Leaving the state and failing to pay child support is subject to federal prosecution.2 Depending on the amount of unpaid child support and how much time has passed since a payment was made, failure to pay child support can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. You can find out more information on the differences between a felony and a misdemeanor here.
When child support payments are not made in full, CSS can take administrative action without having to go through formal court proceedings. Enforcement remedies include:
- Wage garnishment
- Deductions from unemployment compensation
- Deductions from workers’ compensation benefits
- Driver’s license suspension
- Professional license suspension
- Fishing or hunting license suspension
- Tax offsets
- Lottery winnings intercepts
- Credit bureau reporting
- Judgments and liens
Child Support Services has the authority to garnish your wages for failure to pay child support. This includes a continuing deduction of your wages or a one-time garnishment. CSS can request the court issue a Writ of Garnishment to deduct up to 65% of the individual’s disposable earnings to be provided as child support payments. A one-time garnishment is available for non-income personal property, such as a bank account.3
In addition to wages, CSS can also intercept income tax refunds, unemployment compensation, workers’ comp benefit payments, and lottery winnings.
Failure to pay child support can result in a lien placed on your property. CSS has the authority to execute a lien on personal property, home or other real estate, and motor vehicles. To release the lien, payment for the unpaid child support must be made in full.
Child support orders are issued by the court. Failure to follow the orders can result in the court finding the individual in contempt of court. If the court finds you in contempt for failure to pay child support, you may face jail time and fines.4
After service of a citation and motion for failure to pay child support, if the individual fails to appear, a bench warrant may be issued for their arrest. If you are stopped by police for a traffic violation, they will see you have a warrant and place you under arrest. You may have to remain in jail until the child support payments are paid. In addition to payment of overdue child support, you may face a court fine and other fees.
If you have an arrest warrant or bench warrant for contempt of court charges, you may be subject to arrest at any time. Even if you go to court to try and clear up the problem, you may be arrested and sent to jail. If you have an arrest warrant, your attorney may be able to quash the warrant so you can avoid arrest.
If you are unemployed or have a difficult time coming up with the court-ordered child support money, you may be able to petition the court for relief. If a parent who owes past child support is unemployed, the court may order the parent to pay such support in accordance with a plan approved by the court or participate in work activities, including community service or vocational training.5