People in Interest of E.Q., 20COA118

After the children were adjudicated dependent and neglected based upon the parents’ stipulation, the parents submitted an additional stipulation regarding parental responsibilities. The mother filed a motion requiring the father to release three months of his social security disability (“SSDI”) benefits. The juvenile court adopted the parents’ stipulation, ordered the father to turn over three months of SSDI benefits to the mother, ordered the father to designate the mother as the payee of his SSDI benefits, and certified its order into the parties’ domestic relations case.

The father appealed, challenging the juvenile court’s jurisdiction to enter the child support orders, as well as the juvenile court orders requiring him to release his SSDI benefits to the mother and designating the mother as the payee for his SSDI benefits.
Preliminarily, the Division of the Court of Appeals (“the Division”) holds that juvenile courts ordering child support pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 19-1-104(6) must follow the child support provisions set forth in Colorado Revised Statute 19-6-106, which require compliance with the child support guidelines set forth in Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-115.

The father contended that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to issue child support orders because the juvenile court ended the case when it approved the parties’ stipulation regarding parental responsibilities, a stipulation which deferred child support issues to the domestic relations court. The Division disagrees. The Division notes that dependency and neglect cases are governed by the Children’s Code. The Children’s Code authorizes juvenile courts to enter orders allocating parental responsibilities and addressing child support for dependent and neglected children where there is no child custody action pending in a district court. Here, the juvenile court had continuing jurisdiction over the children based on their being adjudicated dependent and neglected. Although the mother initiated a domestic relations proceeding, no party asserted that a custody action was pending in that case. Moreover, the record demonstrates that the juvenile court considered the parties’ stipulation regarding parental responsibilities and the mother’s motion to release the father’s SSDI benefits at the same time and granted both requests as part of one written order.

Finally, the Division holds, consistent with the Social Security Act (“SSA”), that the juvenile court erred in ordering the father to designate the mother parent as the representative payee of the father’s SSDI benefits. The SSA dictates that only the Commissioner of Social Security is tasked with investigating and determining whether an individual receiving SSDI benefits should have a representative payee, and if, so, who should serve as payee.

The court reverses the child support judgment and remands to the juvenile court to redetermine child support based on the criteria listed in Colorado Revised Statute 19-4-116(6). On remand, the juvenile court must also vacate the order requiring the father to designate the mother as the representative payee of his SSDI benefits.

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