In re Marriage of Anthony-Guillar, 07CA2224.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Colorado
Citation207 P.3d 934
Docket NumberNo. 07CA2224.,07CA2224.
PartiesIn re the MARRIAGE OF Natalie ANTHONY-GUILLAR, Appellant, and Steven Allan Guillar, Appellee.
Decision Date19 March 2009
207 P.3d 934
In re the MARRIAGE OF Natalie ANTHONY-GUILLAR, Appellant, and
Steven Allan Guillar, Appellee.
No. 07CA2224.
Colorado Court of Appeals, Div. VI.
March 19, 2009.

[207 P.3d 935]

Jennifer Anntoinette Rivera & Associates, Jennifer A. Rivera, Denver, Colorado, for Appellant.

Dennis J. Jacobson, Lakewood, Colorado, for Appellee.

Opinion by Judge BERNARD.

In this post-dissolution of marriage action, Natalie Anthony-Guillar (mother) appeals the district court's adoption of a magistrate's order crediting Steven Allan Guillar (father) with an overpayment of child support, reducing the total child support arrearages to zero, and sanctioning her for failing to disclose income. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background

The marriage between mother and father was dissolved in 2000, and mother was named the primary residential parent for their only child. The decree incorporated a separation agreement providing that father would pay mother $420 monthly in child support and maintain health coverage for the child; and the parties would pay any uninsured extraordinary medical expenses in excess of $100 in proportion to their respective incomes.

207 P.3d 936

In 2005, mother asked the magistrate to hold father in contempt for failure to pay child support and medical expenses, and sought to garnish his wages. Father objected to the wage assignment and filed a motion to modify child support.

At the hearing, mother presented evidence that she was disabled. Father presented evidence that, beginning on a date after the original decree was entered, mother received monthly Social Security checks of $559 that paid a benefit on behalf of the child because of mother's disability.

After the hearing, the magistrate issued an order finding that father was in contempt for his failure to pay child support; that he owed mother $15,323 in child support arrearages; and that the Social Security disability payment that mother received for the child should be considered as mother's income. Finally, the magistrate awarded mother $5000 in attorney fees for her pursuit of the contempt citation.

Father filed a timely motion for district court review of the magistrate's order pursuant to C.R.M. 7(a). The district court affirmed in part and reversed in part, remanding the case to the magistrate for consideration of whether mother failed to inform father of the child's disability income and whether the disability payments diminished the child's needs.

After a hearing on remand, at which mother stated that all of the benefit payments were used for the child's needs, the magistrate issued a new order. He found that (1) the disability payments, which had since risen to $638 per month, were the child's income; (2) this income reduced the child's need for support; (3) father had overpaid his child support obligation by $8778.20 because of the child's income; and (4) father should be credited with the $5000 in attorney fees previously awarded to mother. Thus, the magistrate reduced the total amount of child support arrearages payable by father to $1645.80.

The magistrate also found that mother deliberately did not notify father about the disability payments, thus misleading father about the child's resources; and that mother should not profit from her nondisclosure or deceit. Thus, the magistrate ordered mother to pay father $1645.80 in attorney fees, which effectively reduced the total amount of arrearages father owed to zero.

On review, the district court concluded that the magistrate's order was supported by the record and was consistent with the remand order. Thus, the district court adopted the magistrate's order as an order of the court.

II. District Court Review of Magistrate Orders

Under C.R.M. 7(a)(8), a district court, when evaluating the merits of a petition to review a magistrate's decision, shall consider it "on the basis of the petition and briefs filed, together with such review of the record as is necessary." Under C.R.M. 7(a)(9), a magistrate's findings of fact "may not be altered unless clearly erroneous." After this review, C.R.M. 7(a)(10) provides the district court with authority to "adopt, reject, or modify the [magistrate's] initial order or judgment."

Although a district court may, in the process of review, "conduct further proceedings" or "take additional evidence," C.R.M. 7(a)(8), this process has an "appellate character." See People in Interest of M.A.M., 167 P.3d 169, 173 (Colo.App.2007). Our review of the district court's decision is "similar to a second level of appellate review." People in Interest of J.G., 97 P.3d 300, 302 (Colo.App. 2004).

III. Analysis

Mother contends the magistrate made a mistake of law by treating the disability payments as the child's income instead of mother's income, and that the magistrate abused his discretion by effectively reducing the arrearages to zero as a direct result of her failure to inform father that she was receiving benefit payments. We disagree.

We begin by noting that the pertinent statute, section 14-10-115, C.R.S.2008, was recodified in 2007. Although many of the proceedings in this case occurred in 2005, and the relevant statutory subsections appeared

207 P.3d 937

in different places in section 14-10-115, we shall use the current citations for clarity's sake, except when we discuss statutory history, where we use the citations in effect at the time of statutory amendments.

A. Ongoing Child Support
1. Introduction

Our analysis focuses on several subsections of section 14-10-115:

• Subsection (2)(b)(II) and (V) require trial courts, when setting a child support figure, to consider the custodial parent's and the noncustodial parent's financial resources.

• Subsection (5)(a) states that the court should refer to enumerated factors when determining each parent's gross income for purposes of using the statutory guidelines to set a child support figure.

• Subsection (5)(a)(I)(P) sets forth one of the enumerated factors to be included in gross income, which is income from

[s]ocial security benefits, including social security benefits actually received by a parent as a result of the disability of that parent or as the result of the death of the minor child's stepparent[,] but not including social security benefits received by a minor child or on behalf of a minor child as a result of the death or disability of a stepparent of the child.

• Subsection (5)(a)(II)(D) states that

[s]ocial security benefits received by the minor children, or on behalf of the minor children, as a result of the death or disability of a stepparent are not to be included as income for the minor children for the determination of child support.

• Subsection (11)(c) adds that

[i]n cases where the custodial parent receives periodic disability benefits granted by the federal "Old-age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Act" on behalf of dependent children due to the disability of the noncustodial parent or receives employer-paid retirement benefits from the federal government on behalf of dependent children due to the retirement of the noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent's share of the total child support obligation ... shall be reduced in an amount equal to the amount of the benefits.

Reading subsections (5)(a)(I)(P), (5)(a)(II)(D), and (11)(c) together, we conclude it is clear that the General Assembly set out rules addressing two situations in which disability benefits are paid:

• If the custodial parent receives benefit payments because the noncustodial parent is disabled, the noncustodial parent's child support payment is reduced on a dollar-for-dollar basis; and

• If the child or the custodial parent receives benefit payments because the child's stepparent is dead or disabled, then those payments are not to be treated as the child's income.

However, this appeal concerns a third situation, for which a rule is not clearly spelled out. As explained below, a parent may receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits when he or she becomes disabled. Further, that person's child may also be entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits on account of a parent's disability. Federal law authorizes the disabled parent who has custody of the child to receive those benefits on the child's behalf when the child is not mature enough to handle the payments responsibly.

As indicated above, the statutes at issue here state that disability benefits "actually received by a parent as a result of the disability of that parent" are to be included in that parent's gross income for purposes of calculating the parent's child support obligation. The issue we face, therefore, is whether the phrase "actually received" refers only to the parent's own disability benefits, or whether it also includes benefits a disabled parent receives on behalf of his or her child.

On remand, the magistrate determined that the disability benefit payments were the child's income, and that they would be used to reduce father's support obligation because the disability payments diminished the child's actual needs. Mother argues that this determination was erroneous as a matter of law, because the relevant statutes require that those payments be included in mother's gross

207 P.3d 938

income, because she received the benefit payments as a result of her disability.

Treating the benefit payments as gross income to mother, instead of as income to the child, can have significant consequences. For example, the magistrate's order here effectively reduced father's child support obligation on a dollar-for-dollar basis. In contrast, including those payments in mother's gross income would have proportionately reduced, but not eliminated, father's support obligation, because mother's gross income had increased while father's gross income remained the same. See § 14-10-115(7)(a)(I)(A), C.R.S.2008 ("The basic child support obligation shall be divided...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 cases
  • People ex rel. E.Q., Court of Appeals No. 20CA0089
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 30, 2020
    ...becomes disabled, he or she may receive SSDI benefits under the SSA. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1) (2018) ; In re Marriage of Anthony-Guillar , 207 P.3d 934, 938 (Colo. App. 2009). In some cases, SSDI benefits are paid directly to the beneficiary. In re Guardianship of Smith , 17 A.3d 136, 140 (Me.......
  • In re N.J.C., Court of Appeals No. 18CA0915
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • October 10, 2019 disparity. Section 19-4-117 is not intended to equalize the parties' financial status. Cf. In re Marriage of Anthony-Guillar , 207 P.3d 934, 944 (Colo. App. 2009) (the intention of an attorney fees award under section 14-10-119 is to equalize the parties' financial status). Rather......
  • Tognoni v. Cross, 10CA1138.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • November 10, 2011
    ...creditor” gives some credence to husband's contention, it does not render the statute ambiguous. See In re Marriage of Anthony–Guillar, 207 P.3d 934, 938 (Colo.App.2009) (if statute is reasonably susceptible of more than one interpretation, it is ambiguous). Husband's interpretation that th......
  • In re Beatty, 11CA0205.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • April 26, 2012
    ...acts or representations and a lack of knowledge or convenient means of knowing the facts. Id. at 450;In re Marriage of Anthony–Guillar, 207 P.3d 934, 944 (Colo.App.2009); see also Jefferson County School Dist. No. R–1 v. Shorey, 826 P.2d 830, 841 (Colo.1992) (“[e]quitable estoppel is not a ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT