Boy sitting at desk removing cash from a wallet.

On June 7, 2021, Governor Polis signed into law House Bill 21-1220, which contains the 2021 changes to the Colorado Child Support statute, as recommended by the Colorado Child Support Commission.

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 substantive changes to the interest rate.

Interest on Child Support Arrears

The big news are two interesting changes regarding interest on support arrears.

10% Interest Rate on Support Arrears

Interest on Child 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 4% over the normal 8% statutory interest for judgments set forth in C.R.S. 5-12-101. What that means is that while a regular court judgment earns interest at the rate of 8%, support arrears had a 4% enhancement, so accrued interest at 12%.

Now, a 10% annual interest rate is applied monthly each month from July 1, 2021, I.e. a 2% enhancement instead of 4%. Interest applied for months prior to that date will still be at 12% annually.

So, for example, if a person has child support arrears from January 2020 onwards, the interest applied each month for the first 18 months (1/2020 through 6/2021) is 12%, and then from 7/1/2021 onwards, the interest applied each month is at the new 10% rate. The 10% rate applies to both any new arrears, as well as on the outstanding balance & accumulated interest owing as of 6/30/2021.

Child Support Interest Compounded Annually not Monthly

The other substantive interest change is that the interest applied to arrears prior to 7/1/2021 is compounded monthly, while the interest applied subsequent to that date is compounded annually, which will result in less accumulated interest. I’m not a finance guy, so cannot fully explain it, but if you love charts & equations, see this Investopedia article on how the compound schedule affects the total interest paid.

Courts Can Waive Interest on Support Arrears

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, the Court held that the equitable principle of “laches” could apply to interest on 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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