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Child Support Arrears in California

Posted by Furman & Zavatsky | Jul 16, 2020

Litigating child support arrears is a common issue in Los Angeles family courts. After a court creates an order for a parent to pay child support, they are expected to make the payments. However, it's very common for a parent to fail to make the child support payments pursuant to the order or judgment.

The common family court term “arrear” is just legal terminology meaning a parent is behind on their obligation to pay child support to the other parent. In simple terms, if you were ordered to pay child support and haven't paid, or only partially made payments, you will be considered to have “child support arrears,” which is also commonly known as “back child support.”

The parent ordered to pay support “owes arrears” once they miss a court ordered child support or spousal support payment.

Child Support Arrears in California

At Furman & Zavatsky, our Los Angeles divorce and family law lawyers have negotiated and settled many “child support arrears” cases.  In fact, we have represented the parent who was owed child support arrears and the parent who owed it.

Our California child support attorneys can provide you with experienced legal representation related to child support or child support arrears. Our lawyers will work to make sure your child support obligation is fair and that your children are receiving sufficient financial support to maintain their standard of living.

Of course, we would never provide you with an absolute guarantee of a particular result on your child support case, our law firm has a record of success in child support arrears litigation in Los Angeles family law courts.

In order to give readers a better understanding of California child support arrears, our Los Angeles family law lawyers are providing a detailed review below

Legal Duty to Support Children

Under California law, both parents have a legal duty to financially support their children until they turn 18 years old. If one parent fails to provide child support to the other after a valid court order was entered, the parent who is owed can seek to collect the missed payment plus interest.

Child support past-due obligations will never just be erased and go away unless the parent who is entitled to receive the child support payments waives their right to collect them, and even in such a situation, there are limitations.

California child support is an amount of money one parents pays the other after a divorce or separation. The specific amount is calculated by a judge who will issue a court order.

This order legally requires a parent to pay the other parent money in order to maintain their children's lifestyle. The payments are typically for essential items such as food, clothes, home, school, and medical care.

The payment of child support is a legal duty that carries consequences if not paid.  There are typically a wide range of reasons a parent will fail to make their child support payments. These include loss of employment, belief the order payments were unfair, and just an ongoing conflict with other parent.

What Happens if I Don't Pay Child Support?

The California Child Support Services is responsible for enforcement of child support payments.  The Los Angeles County Child Support Services enforces cases within their jurisdiction. Unpaid child support accrues an interest rate of 10%.

If you can't make child support payments that were ordered by the court, you should first ask the other parent for some type of mutual agreement, assuming you remain on good terms with them.

If this fails, you can ask the court to modify the court order. If you can provide the family law court proof that you can't make ordered child support payments, they might be willing to work with you.

It should be noted that there will need to be a significant change in circumstances for a court to change the other. These could include a military deployment, incarceration, or evidence the other parent is receiving other benefits.

If you fail to make your child support payments that were ordered by the court, there are many potential consequences, including:

  • Wage and unemployment wage garnishment
  • Workers' compensation and social security garnishment
  • Intercept refund on state or federal taxes
  • Suspension of driver's license
  • Denial of a passport
  • Place a lien on your property
  • Charge you with a misdemeanor crime
  • Negative impact on credit score

Child Support Arrears Consequences

If you have child support arrears in California, you are facing harsh legal consequences, including having your wages intercepted by the government to pay your child support obligation

The government has numerous methods to collect child support payments if you deemed to have fallen into arrears. For example, your paycheck will be put into a wage garnishment where up to 50% of your wages will be intercepted to satisfy the California child support order.

They will also intercept your tax refunds, worker's compensation, unemployment, disability and even social security payments.

Charged with Penal Code 270 Failure to Provide Care

If it can be proven you willfully failed to provide necessary care for your child, you could be criminal charged under California Penal Code 270.  In order to be convicted, the prosecutor has to prove:

  • You were the parent of a minor child
  • You failed to provide necessary care for the child
  • Your failure to provide care was willful and had no lawful excuse

Additionally, if you owe child support but have the ability to pay, you might be charged with contempt of court which could result in fines and some jail time.

Increase in Support Payments 

If you have child support arrears, you might have to pay 10% interest every year in addition to your regular monthly amount described under California Code of Civil Procedure section 685.010.

Additionally, under California Family Code 4722, you might incur a penalty of 6% of the delinquent payment for each month it remains unpaid and up to 72% of the unpaid balance due, if you fall into arrears by over 30 days.

Real Property Lien 

If you have past due child support payments, the government could place a lien against any real property you have. This means if you attempt to refinance or sell the property, the child support arrears has to be paid from the money received from the sale.

Likewise, under California Family Code 4011, payment of court-ordered child support must be made by the parent owing support before payment of any debts to creditors.

Other potential consequences include suspension of a state professional license

How Long Does Child Support Arrears Last?

Your legal obligation to pay child support is normally terminated when your child turns 18 years old. However, paying child support arrears only terminates after the amount owed is paid.

Yes, this means you are legally obligated to pay child support arrears after your child has turned 18 in you still owe past due child support payments.

In simple terms, child support arrears never automatically ends and your child could be 40+ years old and you are still making child support arrears payments.

The amount you owe in child support arrears could be modified if you are able to reach a mutual agreement with the other parent.

The family law court can't change or reduce the amount you owe in child support arrears. Further, child support arrears can't be discharged in bankruptcy.

Los Angeles Child Support Lawyer

If you have child support arrears in California, you should contact our experienced family law lawyers to review your case and legal options.

If you have unpaid child support arrears, any property you might have an interest in could be used to pay your child support obligations. Clearly, this could create significant difficulties if you are attempting to sell your property.

Our family law attorneys will guide you through the complicated steps of child support arrears can will discuss potential payment options to settle the case.  We understand that past due child support obligations will typically have a negative impact on your life and we can assist you.

Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys located at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our firm for a free consultation at (818) 528-3471.

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Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

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