Enforcing Child Support in California

What Happens When Child Support Is Not Paid?

If you are the primary custodian of a child, you may rely on child support payments to cover bills and childcare-related expenses. When the other party fails to make these payments, you can take legal action to enforce the child support orders.

However, legal action can only be taken if you have a court-ordered agreement; if you have worked out a child support arrangement with the other party without filing an agreement with the court, the court cannot help you enforce those orders. In situations where you do not have court-ordered child support, your first to ensure you receive payments is to establish child support legally.

If you have a court-ordered child support agreement and the payor fails to make payment, you can the court and/or Department of Child Support Services to intervene. Below, we will discuss the actions to can be taken in further detail.

Child Support Arrears: Filing a Motion for Contempt of Non-Payment

Failure to make child support payments can lead to a person being found in contempt of court and facing misdemeanor charges. Child support orders are legally binding court documents, and if you violate the terms of the agreement, the other party has the right to ask the court to intervene and hold you in contempt.

If it is found that you have the means and ability to pay but chose not to, you may be found in contempt of court. Contempt of court charges can have civil and criminal penalties, including (but not limited to):

  • A fine of up to $100 and up to five days in jail (per count of contempt)
  • Wage garnishment (to ensure payments are met in the future)
  • Payment of the other parent’s legal fees and costs associated with enforcing the child support order
  • Community service hour requirements for up to 120 hours for a first-time or second-time offense

Child Support Arrears Can Lead to Increased Payments

If you are in arrears, you may end up having to pay an increased percentage on your payments until you have caught up with your payments. You will be required to pay your regular support payments as well as the missed payments; to cover the missed payments, you may have to pay 10% interest per annum on the arrears (see California Code of Civil Procedure § 685.010).

If a person fails to make court-ordered support payments for over 30 days of arrears, the recipient can file and serve notice of delinquency. If the payor fails to pay the unpaid child support within a month of being served the notice, they can be penalized. Specifically, under California Family Code § 4722, a person can be penalized 6% of the payment amount each month that the arrears remain unpaid (up to 72%).

Other Consequences for Delinquent Child Support Payments

If a parent has back-owed child support, you can also face legal consequences, including (but not limited to):

  • Having your wages garnished (to pay child support)
  • Having your license suspend or revoked
  • Losing credit score points (as unpaid debts can be accounted for on your report)
  • Having liens placed on your assets, such as your car, home, etc.
  • Being unable to receive or renew your passport
  • Having the support payments taken from lottery winnings, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation checks, pension funds, or other sources of income

Contact Our Firm for Legal Help

With over 60 years of collective experience, the attorneys at Creative Family Solutions, Cianci Law, PC are equipped to help clients with a wide variety of child support-related matters, including child support enforcement. If you are a parent who has not received court-ordered support, we can help you understand your legal options and help you make informed decisions concerning your next steps for enforcement. We can also help the payee or payor file for a child support modification if a material change in circumstances occurs (i..e a job loss, change in the needs of a child, etc.).

It is also important to reiterate that child support is only enforceable if you have a legal agreement with the other party. If you do not have a court-ordered agreement, our attorneys can help you with your initial petition for child support as well.

Schedule a case consultation today by calling (916) 797-1575 or completing our online contact form today.

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