Failure to Pay Child Support

After a divorce, some parents refuse to follow the child support order. Custodial parents struggling to hold delinquent parents accountable for child support have a few options to collect back child support. Here’s how to enforce child support in California.

How is child support enforced in California?

In California, custodial parents can enforce a child support order by holding their child’s parent in contempt of court; a judge can decree a civil or criminal order to make the delinquent parent pay up.

One must recognize that child support orders can only be enforced if signed by a judge.

Hold Delinquent Parent in Contempt of Court

If a child’s parent fails to pay child support a custodial parent can file a Motion for Contempt, which requests a court hearing to determine if the spouse has violated a court order. If the court finds that a parent has violated the child support order, that parent can be held in contempt of court and subsequently given civil or criminal punishment.

Earnings Assignment

To enforce a child support order, a judge can decree an earnings assignment (wage garnishment), in which child support payments are directly deducted from the paying parent’s earnings. The court must first determine arrears, or how much child support is past due. After determining arrears, a judge can order the debtor’s employer to deduct and assign earnings directly to the entitled parent’s bank account. The employer must deduct earnings within 10 days of the wage garnishment order.

Determination of Arrears

A judge can determine arrears, or how much child support is past due, and decree accrued interest on missed payments. Judges typically order 10% annually accrued interest on back child support.

Other civil punishments for back child support

In addition to the punishments listed above, judges can decree any of the following civil penalties if the parent is held in contempt of court:

  • Order the delinquent parent to pay the custodial parent’s attorney fees
  • Order the debtor’s assets be sold to pay child support
  • Order a lien be placed on the debtor’s assets to pay child support
  • Take funds from the debtor’s bank accounts to pay child support
  • Order any source of the debtor’s income be paid towards child support

Criminal charges for back child support

Although rare, some judges find it more effective to decree criminal charges if a parent fails to pay child support. In California, a judge can sentence a delinquent parent to:

  • Temporary license suspension
  • Two years in prison (if child support is two years past due or over $10,000)
  • Deny passport renewal
  • Order between 120 and 240 hours of community service
  • Fine the delinquent parent up to $1,000

Although potentially effective, judges typically do not fine delinquent parents because the money could be used for child support payments.

FAQs About Child Support Enforcement

What happens if you don’t pay child support in California?

If a parent fails to pay child support, they may face serious legal consequences. Debtors that fail to pay spousal support can have their license suspended, be held in contempt of court, and end up having to pay even more, among other things.

What is the statute of limitations for back child support in California?

California’s statute of limitations for back child support is three years from the date of payment. After three years, back child support can no longer be claimed or enforced.

What happens at a child support enforcement hearing in California?

At the enforcement hearing, the judge will first determine arrears, or how much child support is owed. The judge may then decree a court order enforcing the child support.

How should you prepare for a child support enforcement hearing in California?

Parents can prepare for an enforcement hearing by having a thorough understanding of your personal finances, and child support and custody orders. Prepare a solution for back child support.

Can you enforce child support with an arrest warrant in California?

Yes, a judge can warrant the delinquent parent’s arrest. Though uncommon, judges can sentence noncustodial parents to jail.

Are any papers served when enforcing child support in California?

Depending on the judge’s orders, papers do not necessarily need to be served when enforcing child support in California. A government agency can notify the employer of an earnings assignment.

How long does it take to garnish wages for child support in California?

The employer must garnish wages within 10 days of the earnings assignment order. If the debtor’s employer fails to garnish wages, they can be legally liable.

Can a mediation agreement for child support be enforced?

Child support orders can only be enforced if signed by a judge. It’s crucial to have a judge sign your child support agreement after mediation, making it legally enforceable.

How long does it take to enforce child support?

Child support enforcement can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on how busy your local family court is. Parents can file a Motion for Contempt and have a court order within a few weeks.

Are California’s child support orders enforced out of state?

Yes, child support orders are enforced outside of the state of California. Employers must a debtor’s garnish wages even if the court order came from another state.

How can a lawyer help enforce child support in California?

California gives many legal options to enforce a child support order. A child support lawyer can thoroughly explain each enforcement method and help you decide which option is right for your unique situation. Child support is a serious legal matter, and it’s important to have specialized legal counsel and representation.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to enforce child support, contact Her Lawyer. We’ll connect you with the most qualified lawyer for your unique legal situation.