October 25, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: Father Owes Arrearages Under Original Child Support Order Despite Parties’ Oral Agreement to Reduce Support

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re the Marriage of Beatty and Turner on April 26, 2012.

Post-Dissolution—Modification—Child Support—Service of Process—Equitable Estoppel Doctrine—Arrearages—Agreement.

In this post-dissolution decree proceeding to modify child support, mother appealed from the district court’s order adopting a magistrate’s calculation of child support arrearages owed by father. The order was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Mother contended that the magistrate erred by finding that service of process was proper and by denying her request for a continuance. Mother, however, waived the improper service of process defense by failing to challenge the service’s sufficiency in a responsive pleading before the hearing. Mother also failed to provide the transcript in support of her request for a continuance.

Mother contended that the magistrate erred by applying the equitable estoppel doctrine to enforce the parties’ oral agreements to reduce child support. The magistrate’s order contains no findings that father had detrimentally relied on mother’s acts or representations. Further, father did not prove that he either was unaware of his continuing obligation under the original support order or lacked the knowledge and means to seek modification of it. Therefore, the magistrate erroneously abated the arrearages father owed under the original support order, and the district court’s order in that regard was reversed.

Mother also challenged the income that the magistrate attributed to father and used for calculating his current child support obligation. Because the hearing transcript was not in the record on appeal, however, the Court of Appeals presumed that the determination of father’s income was supported by the evidence and was not clearly erroneous.

Mother further argued that the magistrate erred by setting aside the requirement that father attend a parenting class. The magistrate had authority to preside over all motions to modify permanent orders and did not abuse discretion in modifying this order.

Summary and full case available here.

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