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How to Enforce Child Support

child support papers

Providing support is essential for your children - emotionally and financially. Therefore, when your children’s other parent stops paying child support, it can raise many concerns. Our San Diego child support attorneys are here to help you navigate this situation to help you obtain the support your children need.

Establishing Child Support

In order to get your children’s other parent to pay child support, there must be a court order in place first. The court will only enforce child support agreements that were settled in court. If you have a child support court order in California, the other parent is required to make these payments.

There are options for parents that have difficulties agreeing to a child support amount. One parent can open a case with the local child support agency -- California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), fill out the California court’s child support forms, or by working with a skilled San Diego child support attorney.

Enforcing the Child Support Order

If it has been established that child support is court-ordered, the court can enforce payments from the other parent through a variety of methods.

Child support can be enforced by:

Holding the parent that is disobeying the order in “contempt” of the court.

The parent who is failing to pay child support is referred to as the delinquent parent. Through this, if the parent is found guilty of contempt, they can face civil or criminal charges that result in having to pay fines, serve jail time, paying back missed payments, or a combination of these penalties.

There is a statute of limitations in California for filing a motion for contempt against missed child support payments. The parent requesting child support has three years from the date payment was due, but not paid, to file a claim. This means that a parent can only request up to three years of back child support. If the parent fails to pay for more than three years, the other parent should file for contempt of court every three years in order to receive all past due payments.

The court can issue additional penalties.

After filing for contempt against the other parent for failing to meet child support obligations, the court will hold a hearing. If they find that the parent that is refusing to make payments, the judge can issue the following penalties:

  • Fine the delinquent parent up to $1,000 and sentence them to five days in jail.

  • Sentence the delinquent parent to community service for up to 120 hours for a first or second offense, or up to 240 for third offenses.

  • Order the delinquent parent to pay the custodial parent’s attorney fees and other legal costs of enforcing the child support order.

  • Order the delinquent parent to sell their property to pay back the child support.

  • Order the delinquent parent’s wages to be withheld.

  • Order the money to be taken from the delinquent parent’s bank accounts.

  • Order the missed child support payments be paid from the delinquent parent’s other sources of income, like a pension plan, unemployment compensation, or Social Security disability benefits if applicable.

Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can refuse to issue or renew the delinquent parent’s driver’s license if they are more than 30 days behind on child support. A temporary license for 150 days may be issued, but cannot be made permanent until they are caught up on payments. If 120 days go by with no payments made, the DMV can revoke the license completely.

The DCSS keeps records of parents that do not make child support payments. They will report a delinquent parent to credit reporting agencies, which could result in a lower credit score.

What if the Parent Cannot Make Child Support Payments?

If the delinquent parent does not have the financial resources to make child support payments, the court will likely not hold them in contempt. However, the delinquent parent must be able to prove that they do not have a source of income or any assets to provide for support.

When the child turns 18, if there is still money owed, the delinquent parent will be required to pay back all missed payments until they are completely caught up. Custodial parents should keep the statute of limitations in mind, and always file every three years that payments are missed in order to obtain the full amount of child support.

Children deserve to obtain the support they need in order to survive. If you need help enforcing your court-ordered child support, it’s essential that you speak to a San Diego family law attorney today. At Embry Family Law, we are here to protect you and your family’s best interests.

Call our child support lawyers today at (619) 485-6476 to learn more about your options for enforcing child support.

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