What Happens If a Parent Falls Behind on Child Support?

Child Support in California

The goal with spousal support and child support in California is for the former spouse to be able to survive and the best interests of the child to be met. With an order based on the child support guidelines, it is not a punishment against the supporting parent and a reward to the receiving parent. It is done so everyone can be supported. However, it is unavoidable that issues might arise where there is a child support dispute or the paying parent is not making the necessary payments on time and in full.

Falling Behind on Payments

Falling behind on these payments can be serious and it is important for those dealing with this from either perspective understands how to handle it. After there has been an order to pay support, it must be adhered to unless it is legally changed by the court whether via an agreement or by termination. When the paying spouse falls behind on child support, spousal support or both, there will be an interest rate of 10 percent annually on what is owed. There is nothing that can be done to avoid this charge.

When a paying former spouse or parent has fallen behind on the payments, there could be an increased amount on the court order or wage garnishment to pay off what is owed – also referred to as arrears. This amount is also called the liquidation amount. Parents and former spouses who are paying the arrears via installments should know that the interest will continue to accrue. When the court discovers that a person can make the payments in full and is not doing so, there can be a contempt charge. Jail is a possibility when there is contempt. There are steps that the spouse or parent who is supposed to be receiving the payments can take such as contacting the local child support agency for assistance.


For parents who are ordered to pay spousal or child support and fail to do so, there are various problems and penalties that can be put into effect. A parent who is supposed to be getting these payments should also be cognizant of how the legal system deals with these concerns. A law firm experienced in all areas of child custody and support can help the parents with their situation and should be called for advice in these matters.

If you have questions regarding your child support payments, do not hesitate to contact us today!

Request a Consultation

Fields marked with an * are required

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.