What Are the Consequences of Not Paying Child Support in California?

Last month, we dove into the California child support guidelines and the calculations that go into determining how much you will owe or be owed. The California courts follow this guideline strictly which allows families to set expectations and understand what’s coming in and what’s going out. The reality is, however, that circumstances change and not everyone has a steady income or discipline to reliably pay the court-ordered support.

We frequently hear from clients who either say their ex is skipping payments or that they won’t be able to make upcoming payments as ordered by the courts. This creates stress for everyone involved, and it ultimately impacts the life of your child more than anyone else. After all, these support payments are deemed necessary to provide a suitable standard of living for them as they grow. So, what are the consequences of skipping payments?

Jail Time

We might as well get to this right away: yes, you can face jail time for refusing to pay child support. If the court finds that you are able to but are willfully skipping child support payments then you can be held in contempt of court. After all, child support payments are ordered by the court and therefore can be enforced by the court.

It’s important to note, however, that the courts don’t want this outcome and will exhaust all other options before issuing jail time to the parent who refuses to pay. This is an extreme option that likely won’t result in missed payments being paid and will make it tougher in the future for payments to be made (jail time can result in job loss and hurt job prospects in the future). Instead, the following options are more likely outcomes.

Wage or Tax Garnishment

In this case, the money owed in child support never hits the pockets of the noncustodial parent. Instead, the court will have the amount withheld from the parent’s paycheck or tax return to be provided directly to the custodial parent.

This amount can include not only what is owed on a monthly basis but also an amount necessary to cover the unpaid support. Unless the court or two parties can come to an agreement on a lesser amount, the total amount of unpaid child support will eventually be paid one way or the other.

Property Liens

Another option can be to place a lien on the property of the parent who owes child support. This places interest on certain properties like homes, vehicles, bank accounts, or retirement funds.

This interest will be used to pay off the California child support debt, but it has further ramifications for the property owner. If you intend to sell, transfer, or refinance the property but have a lien on it you will generally not be able to do so. These liens will need to be satisfied and released before you can move forward in most cases.

Loss of Privilege

Another extreme option can be taking away privileges afforded to you by the state or federal government. If the court believes the noncustodial parent may attempt to flee then the court may come after the parent’s driver’s license and/or passport. Additionally, licenses such as hunting, fishing, boating, and other licenses provided by the state of California can be restricted in these cases, as well.

If someone truly is unable to make child support payments the best route to solve the problem is through a modification of the support order. The noncustodial parent can ask for a recalculation of their payments in cases of job loss or a demotion, or other significant change in income.

At KL Family Law, we can help you navigate challenges related to child support on both sides. Whether you owe or are owed a significant amount of unpaid child support, contact our team and we’ll help you move forward with compassion and integrity.

The following two tabs change content below.

KL Family Law

At KL Family Law, we understand that your primary concern is the well-being of your children. We strive to offer tailored solutions for your family law needs and help you move forward through this difficult transition.

Latest posts by KL Family Law (see all)

Skip to content