Southern California Family Law Blog

If you have a court order where the other parent is ordered to pay you child support and he or she fails to pay the support, you have enforcement remedies available to you. You can file for contempt of court for child support enforcement.

A contempt proceeding is classified as quasi-criminal in nature, meaning that the obligor citee, the spouse who is not paying child support, has some of the constitutional rights of an accused criminal. A contempt is criminal in nature if the contemnor, the person in contempt, is imprisoned for a set, unconditional period of time; and likewise if the contemnor is ordered to pay a fine to the court. A contempt is civil in nature if the contemnor is ordered imprisoned only until he or she performs and act ordered by the court, or if ordered to pay a compensatory fine.

The contempt action must be commenced no later than three years from the date the payment was due. A contempt cause of action for nonpayment of support may be broken down into separate counts for each month that payment was not made in full. In order to establish a violation of a child support order you must show that there is a valid court order, the citee had knowledge of the court order, and the citee willfully disobeyed the order. Since the court determined when it originally made the child support order, present ability to pay is not an element that must be proven. However, inability to pay is an affirmative defense that the citee must prove.

It is very difficult to meet the burden of proving a party is in violation of a child support order. Further, the court will not hear the matter unless it is properly presented to the court. If you do not have the knowledge of the court procedure and evidence rules you will not be successful in your contempt hearing. Therefore, it is imperative to retain the services of a knowledgeable family law attorney to assist you in filing the proper documents for the contempt hearing and properly presenting the evidence to the court that the other party is in violation of the child support order.

Wallin & Klarich has more than 30 years of experience in family law and criminal law. Our child support attorneys have handled both sides of contempt cases, and are prepared to fight to get you the best possible outcome. With offices throughout Southern California, we can be there when you need us — wherever you are. If you’re thinking of hiring an attorney for the enforcement of child support payments, call us today at 1-888-749-7428 for a consultation. We will be there when you call.

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