Posted by: Vernon Ready
Category: Child Support
Chris Atkins, a 48-year old Colorado resident, helped his now ex-wife Lori Lonnquist raise Lonnquist’s daughter from the age of 2 ½ until she turned 11. At that point, Lonnquist and Atkins filed for divorce. Atkins was then denied the right to see or contact the girl he had helped raise by Lonnquist. But he wasn’t denied the “right” to pay child support.
In fact, Atkins is required to pay $730 a month. For a girl he is not allowed to see or actively help to raise. This is legal in court, but Atkins’ case is especially tricky. Because – get this – even though Atkins’ name is on the child’s birth certificate, he’s not actually the girl’s father. And he has the paternity tests to prove it.
It gets even stranger. The girl’s biological father, who has been identified, does not pay child support or otherwise financially support the child, but is allowed by Lonnquist to have contact and visit his daughter.
Atkins has said that he does not believe the biological father should be required to support the child, but he also does not believe that he should be required to support the child when he is not raising her anymore and is not the child’s biological father.
Atkins has tried to submit DNA tests to county courts, but confusion about submission guidelines and Colorado policies did not allow him to submit the tests as evidence in his case. So for now, he is still required to pay every month until the girl turns 19.
Colorado looks at child support, as well as parenting time, with the interest of the child in mind. As mentioned above, Atkins does not believe the child’s biological father must be saddled with the burden of child support payments. However, the child still needs financial assistance. So the only way Colorado courts can terminate Atkins’ payments is if they receive assurance that the child’s mother or another parental figure can provide the girl with the proper financial assistance she needs.
Child support in Colorado is determined by a few different factors: each parent’s income, the child custody agreement, and the child’s standard of living are all considered before a judge makes a final ruling. Alimony, health insurance, and the needs of the child are also considered in child support cases.
Why doesn’t Atkins just stop paying?
Until he takes this case to court to modify or terminate child support, he is legally bound to the payments he owes. Colorado takes child support payments seriously. Failing to make these payments has economic and employment-related consequences that affect your daily life.
Specifically, failing to pay child support is viewed in Colorado as violating a court order. If Atkins stops paying, the court may file a “motion for contempt” against him, which can have punitive or remedial consequences.
If you are found guilty of contempt, Colorado courts have the right to collect the payment by doing the following:
On top of taking your income or property, Colorado may enforce the following penalties:
Sometimes, but not always, child support cases are turned over to federal prosecutors.
Atkins, along with any other parent who has gone through divorce proceedings and is required to pay child support, has options. Colorado allows you to modify or terminate child support payments if the arrangement changes over time. By filing the proper paperwork and appearing in court, a judge can determine the appropriate changes to make to your divorce rulings.
The laws can be confusing, however, if you started paying child support before 2014. In 2014, Colorado adjusted the rules for paying and changing child support. But child support payments that were determined before 2014 will have to adhere to the previous guidelines.
Changes and nuances in Colorado law can make it difficult to properly submit evidence and change divorce rulings. Contact a Colorado family lawyer to discuss your options for child support, parenting time, and other post-divorce matters.
About the Author:
Vernon Ready is an award-winning Colorado lawyer with an in-depth understanding of all areas of family law, estate planning, and personal injury. His energetic and aggressive advocacy approach allow him to successfully navigate complex cases, including high asset divorce and complicated custody issues. During his time at the University of Colorado Law School, Ready won numerous awards for his trial advocacy skills. Since being admitted to practice in 2009, Ready has become well-known throughout Denver and the state for the passionate defense of his clients and his unparalleled understanding of the law.