What Happens if You Don’t Pay Child Support in California?

child support

In California, both parents are legally obligated to support their children financially. The amount of support each parent contributes is determined by a child support order issued by the court. Failing to make these required payments can result in serious consequences.

Along with the legal ramifications, failing to pay child support can affect the children involved, the custodial parent, and even the delinquent parent. This article will explore the consequences of failing to pay child support in California.

Child Support in California

When parents are divorced or unmarried in California, the parent with primary custody of the children typically receives child support payments from the other parent. Child support payments are intended to cover expenses for the child, such as:

  • Food, clothing, housing, and other basic needs
  • Education
  • Medical
  • Other reasonable expenses

The court will issue a child support order that includes a schedule of payments. Child support payments should be paid for the specified amount on the dates listed in the order. Failure to do so could result in negative consequences.

Warrants for Failing to Pay Child Support

If a parent fails to make one or more child support payments, the court could issue a warrant for their arrest. The warrant can be civil or criminal.

  • Civil warrants are issued when a parent fails to comply with a child support order. Failure to pay child support is considered contempt of court. Civil warrants can result in the parent being fined or sentenced to less than a year in jail, sometimes both.
  • Criminal warrants are issued when child support payments haven’t been made for an extended period and the parent is significantly behind in support payments. A criminal warrant can be issued regardless of where the parent resides in the U.S. Criminal warrants can result in fines, a year or more in jail, and sometimes both.

Other Consequences for Failing to Pay Child Support in California

Along with a warrant being issued, there are other legal consequences for failing to make timely child support payments in California. Here are some other consequences non-compliant parents may face.

  • Wage GarnishmentsThe Family Support Act of 1988 allows for the garnishment of wages of the non-compliant parent.
  • Health Insurance — If the noncustodial parent is responsible for paying health insurance for their children, the amount they owe for insurance may be deducted from their wages.
  • Property Lien — Liens can be placed on the noncustodial parent’s home, property, bank accounts, or retirement accounts.
  • Denied Tax Refund — If back child support is owed, the amount the non-compliant parent would have received as a tax refund will be used to catch up on their child support payments.
  • Driver’s License Suspension — A parent behind on child support payments faces a driver’s license suspension. To have their license reinstated, they must set up a payment plan.
  • Boating and Hunting License Suspension — If these licenses are lost, they will be reinstated without a suitable payment plan.
  • Professional License Suspension — When this occurs, it can make it even more difficult for the parent to make child support payments consistently.
  • Passport Revocation—A parent who owes child support may try to flee the country to avoid paying. The government can legally revoke their passport. This can also negatively affect their immigration status.
  • Credit Score Implications — When you fail to pay child support, the child support agency can report this to the credit bureaus. This can negatively affect your credit score, making it difficult to obtain credit.

Child Support Order Modifications

Circumstances change, but failing to make court-ordered support payments isn’t the best approach if you struggle to make child support payments. Instead, you can petition the court for a modification. However, it’s essential to understand that the court doesn’t have to rule in your favor.

Typically, the court will only order a modification once qualifying circumstances exist. Some of these circumstances include:

  • Job loss
  • Disability
  • A significant decrease (or increase) in income
  • A new child, you have to support
  • Changes in physical custody

The only way to avoid presenting a material change in circumstances is if you and the custodial parent agree to modify the child support order. The other way to avoid having to show a change in circumstances is if the amount of your support order is below the state guidelines amount.

Not Receiving the Child Support Payments Owed to You? Azemika & Azemika Can Help

Failing to pay child support not only has legal penalties but also affects your children. Parents must prioritize their children’s welfare and honor their financial responsibilities. By fulfilling child support obligations, you can ensure that you uphold the law and contribute to their family’s stability, resilience, and success.

At Azemika & Azemika, our experienced partners understand the complexities of California’s child support laws and are dedicated to advocating for the rights of custodial parents. We will work tirelessly to ensure you receive the financial support you and your children are entitled to.

If you are still waiting to receive the child support payments owed to you, we can help. Contact us today for a consultation.