Keeping up with child support payments can often be a difficult task. In fact, child support is one of the most disputed aspects in a divorce proceeding. You may be struggling to make payments, or feel that your child support order is unfair. In any event, you should not refuse to pay the amount specified by the terms of your child support order. If you fail to pay, you will be facing severe penalties.
Before we delve into the penalties of failing to pay your child support, let’s first take a look at the laws pertaining to child support under California Family Code 17000.
What is Child Support?
Child support is a court ordered payment for the support and maintenance of a dependent child or children by a parent. According to the California Family Code § 17000, a dependent child is un-emancipated person under the age of 18 who is not:
- a member of the armed forces; or
Additionally, a child who is under the age of 19 and is enrolled in and regularly attending a high school or a vocational training program is also considered a dependent.1 The amount of child support is determined by the court on the basis of both parties’ incomes as well as the percentage of time that the child is in each person’s care.
Modification of Child Support Orders
An existing child support order may be modified in certain circumstances. For example, if there is significant increase or decrease in either parent’s earnings, or a change in the custody division, either parent may request a modification of the child support order.
The purpose of the child support is to provide monetary assistance, heath insurance coverage, day care and other services to the child(ren) for whom the payments were ordered. The court may reduce the amount of child support ordered, as well, based on certain hardships in accordance with California Family Code § 4050, which rules that the state must remain in compliance with federal child support regulations. Child support payments are usually collected through the process of wage garnishment, unless the court approves another form of payment. Other common forms of payment include credit or debit transactions and checks.
Child support payment amounts often include delinquency payments called arrearages. An arrearage is any unpaid child support payment that includes interest incurred on those payments. As of 2011, non-custodial parents in California owed approximately $19 billion in child support payments. This is due, in part, to the fact that California has the highest child support interest rate, 10% annually. 2
What Can Happen if You Don’t Pay Child Support?
Besides increasing arrearages and paying 10% interest on unpaid child support payments, there are several consequences you may face for failing to pay child support in California.
The following are some of the actions that the Department of Child Supportive Services (DCSS) and other government agencies may take to receive payment of all owed child support payments:
- Child support payments may be intercepted from the California Public Employee Retirement system.
- Failure to pay or late payments are always reported to credit reporting agencies, often affecting your credit rating.
- In the event that a person owes over $2,500 in arrearages, the US Department of State will not issue or renew a passport until all payments are made, thus preventing international travel.
- Liens may be filed on any home owned by the person who owes child support arrearages. In the event that the property is sold, the liens on the property will be applied to the arrearages.
- Suspension or revocation of licenses including driver’s licenses, occupations, recreations and permanent state issued professional licenses until past due child support payments are collected in full.
DCSS and other government agencies may also intercept an individual’s personal finances to prompt payment of arrearages in the following ways:
- DCSS may collect from one’s personal financial accounts including but not limited to banks accounts and/or retirement accounts until the past due payments are collected.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may intercept tax refunds and federal tax benefits
- Unemployment, disability insurance and Social Security benefits may be intercepted
- Workers Compensation awards can be taken
- State taxes and lottery winnings may be intercepted3
Criminal Consequences of Failing to Pay Child Support in California
As a final measure, when all other attempts to collect child support are unsuccessful, DCSS may also press criminal charges. According to California Penal Code § 270, “If a parent of a minor child willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000) or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or both.”4
Complaint and Hearing Processes
When a parent is unable to pay child support, the parent has a right to file a complaint and request a hearing. It is important to have an attorney advise you of your options and your rights when filing legal paperwork relating to your child support case. Your attorney can also help you prepare for your hearing by assisting with writing a statement of facts for your case, preparing witnesses who might speak on your behalf at the hearing and developing a legal strategy for the hearing.
Call Wallin & Klarich Today
At Wallin & Klarich, we understand that it can be difficult to pay your child support. However, we must advise you that failing to make child support payments can result in serious consequences. For this reason, it is important that you seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney immediately. Our knowledgeable attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully helping our clients with child support modifications. Let us help you today.
With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to help you no matter where you are located.
Call us today at (888) 749-7428 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.