How California Enforces Child Support Orders

Child Support Orders

Child support is a vital part of raising a child for many parents. After all, it helps a custodial parent deal with the everyday costs associated with caring for a child. Unfortunately, some parents choose to deliberately deprive their child of child support for a variety of reasons, including spite, laziness, a simple lack of caring, or a multitude of other reasons. Thankfully, California offers ways for parents to enforce child support orders even when the other parent refuses to pay.

Taking Steps to Establish Child Support

The first step in enforcing child support is to ensure that it has been established by a court. Informal agreements between parents cannot be enforced by a court of law. Instead, you must have court-ordered child support to engage in any enforcement action.

If you and the other parent have agreed on an amount for child support, be sure to get it in writing. Then, you can have the agreement approved by the court. Where you cannot agree regarding the amount, the court can set out an amount that is appropriate based on the unique circumstances of both parents and the child.

Enforcing Court-Ordered Child Support

Once you have successfully established the amount of child support, you can use the weight of the court to help you carry out the agreement if a parent falls behind in his or her support payments. Generally, your attorney will file a motion for contempt to start the child support enforcement process.

When the court sets out an order, you are obligated to obey it. Failing to follow it means that you are in “contempt of court.” Contempt proceedings can be either civil or criminal. In criminal contempt cases, the judge can order fines and jail time. In civil cases, the judge can also order jail time, but the parent will be released as soon as he or she pays the amount owed for child support.

Creative Punishments for Failure to Pay Child Support in California

In addition to jail time and fines, the court also has several other creative ways that it can punish those who do not pay child support as required. The punishments are often most severe when the parent has chosen not to pay child support for a variety of reasons, including the intentional failure to obtain employment (or being paid under the table to avoid child support) or spending money on foolish or selfish things.

The following list includes potential penalties in California that the court can impose on parents who do not pay child support:

  • Sentence the parent to up to 120 hours of community service for the first or second offense, and up to 240 hours for a third contempt finding
  • Order the parent to pay attorney’s fees and other costs for bringing the contempt proceeding
  • Sell the parent’s property to pay support
  • Place a lien on real estate for back support payments
  • Garnish a parent’s wages or bank accounts
  • Order payment of past-due support from pension plans, disability benefits, unemployment compensation, or virtually any other source of income (with some exceptions)

The DMV may also refuse to renew a parent’s license if he or she is behind on child support payments. It may even affect the parent’s credit.

The State of California knows that enforcement of child support obligations is critical. Having an attorney to help you with this process often increases the likelihood of a favorable result. Contact the Law Offices of Kayleene Writer for more information on how we can help.