Most parents want to financially support their children. However, there are many cases in Los Angeles County where some parents refuse to pay child support even when it has been ordered by the family court. There are tools in place to help parents enforce child support orders and collect on late child support payments. Obviously, in order to enforce child support, there must first be an actual order from the Los Angeles County Family Court requiring a parent to pay support.
This is commonly known as establishing child support. Oral agreements between two parents is not typically enforceable. It's critical to note here that if the parents fail to establish a child support agreement in writing and signed by a judge, there is no legal requirement to honor the agreement. In California, parents can't waive child support responsibility, but can agree to a lesser amount.
If a child support agreement for a specific amount exist, it has to be in writing and approved by the court. This agreement is commonly known as a Stipulation to Establish Child Support Order. If the court agrees with the parents that a specific amount of money is in the best interest of the child, a child support order will be issued.
If parents can't agree that child support is needed, one parent would have to file an action in court for child support. This motion can be filed by the parent themselves with the mandatory forms; using a family law lawyer who can file the petition on their behalf; or even with some assistance of a local child support agency who could file the motion for child support on their behalf, such as the Los Angeles County Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). The California State Disbursement Unit (SDU) is responsible for collecting and managing child support payments.
For more information about establishing a child support order, contact our Los Angeles family law lawyers to review the specific details of your situation and to explore legal options.
Methods Available by The Court to Enforce Child Support
After child support has been order been ordered by the court, there are a wide range of methods available to the court to enforce the child support order that will help a parent collect late payments. One of the primary methods of child support enforcement is by holding the delinquent non-paying parent “in contempt.”
This simply means the judge believes one parent is knowingly disobeying a court order. Contempt carries both civil and criminal penalties. If the judge finds the delinquent parent guilty of contempt for failing to pay child support, they will normally order them to pay fines, perform some type of community service, or even sentence them to time in the Los Angeles County jail.
The parent who is seeking child support enforcement has to file in court a motion for contempt, which is a formal written request, It should be noted that California has a statute of limitations (specific time limit) on filing a motion for contempt in connection with non-payment of child support. The SOL is 3 years from the date a payment was delinquent to file legal contempt action against the non-paying parent.
Once an Order to Show Cause for contempt has been properly filed and personally served, the court will schedule and hold a actual hearing on the matter. If the court finds the delinquent parent knowingly refused to pay child support that was ordered, there are a wide range of penalties they could face. See related: How Does Incarceration Affect a Parent's California Child Support Obligations?
Speak with our Los Angeles Child Support Lawyers for Guidance
If your child's other parent is not paying you child support payments despite the court order, it is crucial that you speak with a child support attorney at Furman & Zavatsky LLP so that we may bring the issue to the court's attention and receive an order from the judge enforcing the child support payments. The legal steps necessary to enforce child support payments may be difficult, but they are surmountable with the right child support attorney.
There is a multitude of options available to receive child support, but they require legal intervention. Now that we have covered a general overview of the child support order process above, let's examine some specific methods for enforcement of collection below.
If a court has ordered that your child's other parent pay child support to you, then it is possible that the court has also directed a wage garnishment of the parent's wages. This is a common practice in Los Angeles County. Under wage garnishment, also known as wage assignment, money is taken out of each paycheck of the individual and deposited into the account of the parent owed the child support. If the court has ordered wage garnishment, then you can have the wage garnishment order served on the other parent's employer.
The employer is legally required to comply with the garnishment order. This is a straightforward process that only breaks down when the employer fails to comply with the court order, or if the other parent runs their own business or is unemployed. If any of these scenarios arise and that is the reason for the failure to pay child support, then this can be brought to the attention of the court for further evaluation and possible contempt proceedings.
Options for Pursuing Unpaid Child Support Payments
Several options are available in Los Angeles County to obtain unpaid child support payments that cannot be collected through wage garnishment. Those options include:
- Property Liens. A lien can be placed on the real estate of the parent who is failing to pay child support. Before the property can be sold, or at the time of sale, the past due child support payments are paid out of the sale proceeds. Property liens can be placed on any number of properties that are owned by the non-paying parent. The first property to be sold will be used to satisfy the lien.
- Income Tax Interception. Tax refunds can be intercepted and sent to the spouse with child custody, provided that the non-paying parent is due a refund.
- Insurance Interception. Disability insurance benefits and unemployment insurance benefits can be intercepted and used to pay the parent their due child support.
- Lottery Interception. Lottery winnings can be intercepted and used to pay the parent with child custody. While it may be difficult to discover whether your child's other parent has won the lottery, if you do hear news of such an event, it may be a great opportunity to recover missed child support payments.
- Franchise Tax Board. The California Franchise Tax Board can get involved and take funds from bank accounts, vehicles, real estate, and other assets, to pay the unpaid child support payments.
Contempt of Court
If your child's other parent is willfully ignoring a court order directing child support payments despite their ability to make those child support payments, they can be found to be in contempt of court. Contempt of court means that an individual is purposefully disobeying a court order. There are consequences for such disobedience, but it must first be brought to the court's attention.
Once the court is aware of the contempt, the court can make a finding that the non-paying parent is in contempt and punish him or her accordingly. Punishment can include financial penalties, specific required actions, or even jail time. Under the California Family Code, Family Code Section 290, the court is specifically authorized by the legislature to enforce orders through contempt of court determinations.
Contact our Los Angeles Child Support Attorneys to Review Your Case
If your child's other parent is failing to pay or underpaying court-mandated child support payments, then it is necessary to bring such failure to pay to the court's attention. It is crucial to have our child support enforcement attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky LLP champion your right and your child's right to receive child support payments from the non-paying parent.
You have options available, such as property liens, income tax interception, insurance interception, seizure of property, and holding the non-paying parent in contempt of court. If your child's other parent has stopped paying child support, then contact our experienced Los Angeles family law attorneys at 818-528-3471.
Furman & Zavatsky LLP
Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436
Enforcing a Court Order – Los Angeles Child Support Services
Child Support – California Courts
Los Angeles County Child Support Guidelines
Child Support Enforcement – FindLaw