Custody Enforcement

Enforcement of Child Support Agreements

According to the law, parents must provide financial support to their children regardless of the relationship between the parents.  Data from the US Census Bureau indicate that not even half of all custodial parents receive the financial support that is owed to them by non-custodial parents.  The majority, nearly 75%, do receive at least some financial support.  Non-custodial parents often resent having to pay child support, especially if they rarely see the child.  It is not unusual for parents to take legal action to enforce child support orders.

The court determines the amount of child support a non-custodial parent is required to pay.  Income and time spent with the child is considered for both parents.  The court also looks at the standard living the child is accustomed to or could have depending on the level of support.  The financial needs as well as the general well-being of the child are also taken under advisement by the court when establishing child support requirements.  In addition to regular wages earned, the court may include the following in child support calculations:

  • Commissions earned on sales
  • Wages from overtime
  • Dividends from investments
  • Benefits from unemployment claims
  • Benefits from workers’ compensation claims
  • Alimony to the ex-spouse

When a parent does not pay child support as required by California law, they are considered to be either not in compliance or criminally non-compliant depending on the exact circumstances.  They cannot be arrested for being a “dead beat parent”, but they can be arrested for being out of compliance with a support order.  Child support enforcement agencies can identify these parents.  Or the parent who should be receiving the support can file a request for a contempt order with the local family court.  In addition to back payments, the non-compliant parent may have to pay interest as well as penalties on the past due amount.  In California, it is common for penalties to be more than the actual amount due.

A non-compliant parent can be affected in other ways.  The local child support enforcement agency can garnish wages, revoke their driver’s license, or suspend professional licenses which can prevent the individual from working.  More extreme measures include criminal prosecution, garnishment of tax returns, and property liens to secure the financial resources owed by the non-compliant parent.

If your financial status should change, you may be able to reduce the amount of child support you are required to pay.  However, you cannot do this on your own.  A court must approve modifications to child support orders.  The court will decide whether to reduce the amount you owe or simply prevent interest from accruing on that you owe.  Any time you have a change in your financial situation, contact a California family law attorney as soon as possible so the courts can be notified about these changes.

Parents can get help with enforcing child support orders by contacting the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) or by hiring a family law attorney.  If the non-compliant parent flees the state to avoid paying child support, enforcement is still possible.  The Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998 allows enforcement agencies in multiple states to work collaboratively on enforcement issues.  Under this act, non-compliant parents can actually face prison time in a federal prison.

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