What Does Arrears Mean in Child Support? Get Started Today

What Are Child Support Arrears?


Updated Jan 2024

Child support is an important part of many divorce settlements in Colorado. Child support is a court order that requires the noncustodial parent to pay the custodial parent a certain amount each month for child care. If the noncustodial parent fails to fulfill a child support obligation, he or she falls into arrears. The custodial parent will then have the right to take legal action to obtain back (overdue) child support payments.

What Does Arrears Mean in Child Support?

Arrears is another word for debt. Child support arrears means the party responsible for paying child support has not done so for one or more payments. This results in the noncustodial parent owing a certain amount of unpaid child support to the custodial parent. Child support arrears may occur if one parent moves away or refuses to pay.

There are two types of child support arrears: assigned and unassigned. Assigned arrears means the child support payments that have gone unpaid will go to the state. The custodial parent has turned to public assistance for financial aid in the absence of child support and must pay the government back what was given if back payments are received. When the noncustodial parent pays off the debt, assigned arrears will go to the state for supporting the child financially.

Unassigned arrears are debts to be paid directly to the custodial parent. This will be the case if the custodial parent never received public assistance from the government. In this scenario, the custodial parent will be entitled to 100 percent of the unpaid child support.

Implications of Child Support Arrears in Colorado

  • Legal Consequences: Falling into arrears can have serious legal consequences. The state can take various enforcement actions to collect overdue child support. These can include wage garnishment, intercepting tax refunds, revoking or denying passports, and even driver’s license suspension.
  • Impact on Custodial Parent: For the custodial parent, arrears can create financial strain, as they may have been relying on these payments for the child’s expenses.

What Can You Do If Your Ex Is in Child Support Arrears?

If your ex-spouse fails to meet his or her child support obligation in Colorado, you are entitled to back child support. This is an amount of child support owed to you by your ex-spouse for the missed payments. You can take legal action to force your ex-spouse to pay back child support, in most cases.

If your ex moved out of state and did not tell you where, your local child support enforcement agency may be able to locate him or her with identifying information such as the Social Security number and date of birth. Once located, the government can take steps to force your ex-spouse to pay what is owed in child support arrears.

For example, the government could garnish your ex-spouse’s wages for the amount owed in child support debt. Wage garnishment means the government automatically deducts a certain amount from the debtor’s bank account until the debt has been repaid. It may also be possible to garnish government payments for child support arrears, including tax refunds and coronavirus stimulus checks.

Can the Custodial Parent Forgive Child Support Arrears?

Yes. The custodial parent can submit a waiver that creates a court order that relieves the noncustodial parent from having to make back child support payments. This might be a viable option for a family if the custodial parent does not need the money to support the child, the couple has reunited or the couple works out their own agreement.

If the custodial parent does not forgive child support arrears, the child support debt will not disappear. Wage garnishment and other measures can force the noncustodial parent to pay back child support until the debt has been paid in full. It is not possible to file bankruptcy on child support arrears.

Do You Need a Child Support Lawyer?

If you are dealing with a child support arrears situation in Fort Collins, contact our child support attorney for legal advice. You may need to hire a lawyer to help you file court documents against your ex-spouse for back child support or find another solution. A lawyer can explain your rights and help you and your family work through a complicated child support issue.

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