The child support changes, which are the first since the 2019 changes to reflect the change in maintenance taxation, are fairly modest. Most of them are technical or “housekeeping” changes, but there are two substantive changes to note:
Interest on Child Support Arrears
The big news are two interesting changes regarding interest on support arrears.
8% Interest Rate on New Support Arrears
C.R.S. 14-14-106(1) was modified to reduce Colorado’s interest rate on child support arrears. Per that statute, interest on support arrears has long been at 4% over the statutory interest for judgments set forth in C.R.S. 5-12-101, which is 8%. What that means is that while a regular court judgment earns interest at the rate of 8%, support arrears were at 12% (4% over the normal rate).
For child arrears effective July 1, 2021 onwards, the interest rate is now 10% instead of 12%, as they reduced the enhancer from 4% to 2%. Note that for any unpaid support prior to that date, the 12% rate remains in effect, so this new rate only applies to missed months of support after 7/1/21. This means that when the arrears include months before July 1 as well as months after July 1 (which would be pretty common), the party seeking interest will now need to submit two different arrears calculations to the court, one for pre-7/1/2021 arrears at 12%, and the other for post-7/1/2021 at 10%.
Courts Can Waive Interest on Support Arrears
The other big interest change is that the Colorado Assembly has now codified in statute the appellate court trend towards giving trial courts discretion over whether to apply interest to arrears fully, partially, or not at all. Factors the family law judges are to consider are:
- Whether there was “good cause” for the non-payment.
- Whether paying interest would cause “undue hardship or substantial injustice” to the payor.
- Whether reducing or disallowing interest would cause “undue hardship and substantial injustice” to the payee.
Note that this provision does not allow a judge to forgive any portion of the actual support arrears, just the interest. The court may determine an “equitable period of repayment” for any interest allowed, plus the support arrears.
Note that while it’s interesting this has been codified in the statute, it’s not a completely earth-shattering rule. After years of lower courts ruling that trial judges had no authority to waive interest on child support arrears, in 2016 the Colorado Supreme Court held to the contrary.
In Johnson,1In re: Marriage of Johnson, 2017 CO 67. the Court held that the equitable principle of “laches” could apply to child support arrears. In a classic case of the “tale wagging the dog”, in Johnson the unpaid child support itself came to just over $50K, while 14 years of 12% interest came to almost $840K! That was enough of an injustice that the Court decided enough was enough.
Child Support from Low Income Parents
C.R.S. 14-10-115 already had a minimum support amount for low-income payors, but now a parent earning less than $1500/mo will pay the lesser of 20% of the payor’s Adjusted Gross Income, or 75% of the following low-income amounts:
- $50 for one child (so 75% comes to $37.50/mo)
- $70 for 2 children (so 75% comes to $53.25)
- $90 for 3 children (so 75% comes to $67.50)
- $110 for 4 children (so 75% comes to $82.50)
- $130 for 5 children (so 75% comes to $97.50)
- $150 for 6 children (so 75% comes to $112.50)
A parent earning under $650/mil still has a minimum $10/mo obligation.
Note that these minimums apply only to a Worksheet A, where the payor has fewer than 93 overnights per year with the children. If the parent is on a Worksheet B (i.e. has 93 or more overnights), the support obligation will be the lower of the amount listed above, or the calculation on the Worksheet B.
Award-Winning Colorado Springs Child Support Attorneys
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