Back Child Support
Child support is a payment ordered in family court for the support and maintenance of a dependent child by a parent. In the state of California, a dependent child is a person under the age of 18 who is not self-supporting, a member of the armed forces or married. Additionally, a child 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. The amount of child support is determined by the court on the basis of incomes of both parents and physical custody.
An order for child support is a serious financial obligation that if ignored carries serious consequences. It is advisable to speak to a local family law attorney if you have questions about handling missed child support payments.
Consequences of Not Paying Child Support
Past due child support payments are referred to as arrearages. When you do not pay child support as ordered, a 10% interest will accrue on unpaid child support payments. A child support order allows the Department of Child Supportive Services (DCSS) to intercept your personal finances to prompt payment of arrearages by collecting from your personal financial accounts including but not limited to bank accounts and/or retirement accounts until the past due payments are collected.
Money can also be intercepted through other government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), unemployment, disability insurance, and Social Security benefits. Workers Compensation awards and State taxes and lottery winnings may also be intercepted. Additionally, the DCSS may pursue the following actions to collect child support arrearages:
- Failure to pay or late payments will be reported to credit reporting agencies which can negatively affect your credit score.
- If you owe over $2,500 in arrearages, the US Department of State will not issue or renew a passport until you pay all arrearages.
- Payments from the California Public Employee Retirement system may be intercepted.
- Liens may be filed on any home or property owned by the parent who owes child support arrearages. Once the property is sold, the liens on the property will be applied to the arrearages. This may also interfere with the sale of the home or property.
- Suspension (or revocation) of your driver’s license, occupation, recreation, and permanent state-issued professional licenses until support payments are paid in full.
As a final measure, when all other attempts to collect child support are unsuccessful, DCSS may also pursue criminal charges for contempt that can carry fines and possible jail time.
Modification of Child Support Orders
An existing child support order may be modified in certain circumstances. The judge may reduce the amount of child support ordered, based on certain hardships based on loss of income. If you have lost your job or have a significant decrease in income, it is important to request a modification as soon as possible because the modification is effective form the time your file and serve the other parent, not when the loss occurred.
It is important to have a child support lawyer advise you of your options and your rights when filing modification paperwork in your child support case. Your attorney can also help you prepare for your hearing by developing a legal strategy and defense for missed child support and modification.