How Does Child Support Get Paid if My Ex Goes to Jail?

How Does Child Support Get Paid if My Ex Goes to Jail?

Colorado law requires the court to award child support in an amount fair to both parents, while ensuring an adequate standard of living for the child.  Failure to pay child support can put unfair financial strain on a parent counting on those resources to properly care for a child.

But what if a parent is in jail?

Obviously, a parent who is serving jail or prison time, is not working, and is therefore unable to pay child support or meet other financial obligations. In the most serious cases, contempt of court can result in jail time for a parent who refuses to meet child-support obligations. But it is often a last resort because the court recognizes incarceration is not the best remedy when it comes to forcing a parent to meet child-support obligations.

Still, when a parent ends up in jail, whether for non-payment of support or for other reasons, their financial obligations to meet court-required child support payments do not go away. If a parent has the means to continue to pay, he or she will be required to do so even while behind bars. Unpaid support will accumulate and be due to the parent owed support when a jailed spouse is released.  A parent seeking to modify a child support obligation will need to file the appropriate motion to modify child support and meet the statutory requirements set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-122.

Enforcing Child Support in Colorado

The law provides a number of ways to force compliance with court-ordered child support, including:

  • Garnishment of wages: The court can order a spouse’s employer to withhold a portion of wages to satisfy child-support obligations.
  • Tax returns: The court can order state or federal tax returns be seized for payment of child support.
  • Liens: The court can order liens against personal property, including real estate and vehicles.
  • Suspended license: The State of Colorado does suspend the driver’s license of a parent who is behind in child support payments.
  • Travel: The court can deny passports or travel.
  • Credit reporting: Non-payment of support can be reported to credit bureaus, negatively impacting credit score.

However, the court recognizes some solutions are better than others when it comes to reaching the goal of getting payments into the hands of the parents counting on those resources to help raise a child. In most cases, the court will seek compliance a number of times before issuing the more serious sanctions that could hinder a parent’s ability to pay. This is a primary reason why reporting nonpayment as it occurs, instead of waiting until a former spouse is seriously behind, is the best course of action.

Court-Ordered Child Support

It’s important that child-support is established through the court with the help of an experienced Denver child support attorney. In some cases, where collaborative parents are able to make private agreements for support without court orders, challenges arise when financial circumstances change.

A court order to pay child support is backed by the full power of the court and is enforceable. When private agreements fall apart, whether because the paying spouse is jailed or for other reasons, obtaining back support can be much more complicated.

This doesn’t mean an agreement must be reached under adversarial conditions. An experienced child support attorney in Denver can assist couples through a more collaborative process, such as mediation or arbitration. The important point is that your agreement must be filed with the court and entered as a court order to be legally binding and enforceable.

Contact a Denver Child Support Lawyer at Littman Family Law and Mediation Services at 303-832-4200 for a confidential consultation.

Littman Family Law and Mediation Services

1772 Emerson Street
Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303-832-4200
Fax: 303-832-9322
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