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Which State’s Law Applies to My Colorado Child Support Case?

By: Jessica A. Bryant

stock-illustration-37056990-usa-mapAs seasoned family law attorneys, we see various intricate issues which arise in Denver area divorce, custody, and child support cases. This can include issues related to interstate and multi-state jurisdiction. In today’s mobile society, it is not uncommon for both parties and the child(ren) to move out of the state that entered the initial child support order before the child becomes an adult. When a party leaves the state that entered the initial child support order, and moves to Colorado, several questions arise, most importantly: can Colorado enforce my child support order, can Colorado modify my child support order and, if Colorado enforces and/or modifies my child support order, which state’s law applies?

Enforcement

Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 14, Article 5,  Colorado can enforce a child support order entered in another state. One way such can occur is if an income-withholding order is sent to a Colorado employer. In that case, provided the technical requirements of an income-withholding process are followed, the Colorado employer must comply. The benefit of this enforcement remedy is that the child support order does not first have to be registered in Colorado before the income-withholding is pursued. A party can also register the child support order in Colorado for enforcement. As registration for enforcement requires the filing of a Petition, with specific requirements, along with a certified copy of the child support order, it is recommended you seek the assistance of an attorney to ensure the order is properly registered. Once a foreign (out of state) child support order is entered, an wide array of remedies become available for those seeking to enforce and collect.

Modification

If both parties reside in Colorado, and the child does not still live in the state that entered the child support order, upon registration of the order in Colorado, Colorado can both enforce and modify the order. If neither party, nor the child, live in the state that entered the child support order, the party seeking a change to the child support order lives in another state, and the responding party has significant connections with Colorado (known as personal jurisdiction), Colorado can modify the child support order upon registration of the order in Colorado. If a child or a party have a significant connection with Colorado (known as personal jurisdiction) and all the parties have agreed on the record in the state that entered the initial child support order, then Colorado can modify the order. To modify the order, the order must be registered in Colorado (either before or at the same time as the requested modification). Registration for modification follows the same procedures as registration for enforcement. One should be aware that there is a clear distinction between modification jurisdiction and enforcement jurisdiction and that there are cases in which both avenues may not be pursuable in a Colorado family law court.

Once Registered- Which State’s Law Applies?

For the purposes of enforcement, Colorado can apply its own enforcement procedures upon registration (see prior blog posts regarding Colorado child support enforcement remedies). However, the law of the state that entered the child support order controls the calculation of the amount of past due child support, including the amount of interest that applies. Enforcement procedures can include wage garnishment, gaining a support judgment and seizure of wages and assets, or contempt of court. Your attorney can assist you in determine which route is most efficient, cost effective, and likely to result in collection.

For the purposes of modification, Colorado applies its own law regarding the requirements, procedures and defenses for a child support  case with a few exceptions. Most importantly, Colorado cannot modify any part of the child support order that is non-modifiable under the law of the state that entered the first child support order. The most common example of this is the age at which child support terminates. The law of the issuing state governs the age at which child support terminates- as the age of emancipation in Colorado is 19, as compared to 18 in many other states, it is very important to be aware of this distinction. The wrong language in an agreement or proposed order could extend your child support obligation for up to a year per child. Thus, it is very important to seek the assistance of an attorney when seeking to modify an out of state child support order to ensure the correct state law is applied throughout any agreements or proposed orders.

Contact the experienced Denver area child support attorneys at Plog & Stein to assist you with your interstate child support issues. With offices on the north and south ends of the Denver metropolitan area, our attorneys are ready to aggressively help you with your family law needs, including child support.