Enforcement of Child Support in California
Child support plays a critical role in ensuring the well-being of minor children after the parents have undergone a separation or divorce. Because of this, when a noncustodial parent fails to meet their child support obligations by providing the support amount they are ordered to pay, it can create financial strain for the custodial parent and impact the children's lives. Unfortunately, non-payment of child support is not an uncommon issue. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2015 report, which was released in 2018, only 43.5 percent of custodial parents reported receiving the full amount of child support due to them. Fortunately, California has child support enforcement measures in place to help custodial parents secure the support they are owed.
Opening a Case with the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS)
If you do not have a child support order in place, the first step in enforcing child support is to open a case with your local DCSS. DCSS can assist in locating the noncustodial parent, establishing paternity if necessary, and establishing a child support order. The amount of a child support order is based on the child support guideline, which you can learn more about here.
Enforcement Tools Available to DCSS
DCSS has various tools at its disposal to enforce child support orders:
Income Withholding: If a child support order is already in place and was issued in California, there is a requirement to provide for immediate wage withholding. This requires the noncustodial parent's employer to deduct child support payments directly from their paycheck and send them to the DCSS for distribution to the custodial parent. This tool also allows income to be withheld from other sources including, but not limited to Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Social Security Disability, pension plans, and Workers’ Compensation income.
License Suspension: DCSS can ask the CA DMV to suspend the noncustodial parent's driver's license if they fall significantly behind on child support payments and is not paying child support through income withholding. This can serve as a powerful incentive for compliance.
Income Tax Refund Offset: DCSS can intercept federal and state tax refunds due to the noncustodial parent and apply those refunds towards unpaid child support.
Bank Levies: In cases of delinquency, DCSS can issue bank levies, enabling them to seize funds from the noncustodial parent's bank account to satisfy child support arrears.
Property Liens: To secure the child support debt, DCSS can place liens on the noncustodial parent's real or personal property, including real estate. This can act as a financial encumbrance, ensuring eventual payment.
Passport Denial: In California, your child support balance must be zero ($0.00) in order to obtain a passport.
Credit Reporting: Delinquent child support payments can be reported to credit bureaus by DCSS. This may impact the noncustodial parent's credit score, serving as an additional consequence for non-payment.
Referrals to the State of California: In some cases, past-due child support may be particularly hard to collect. These cases are referred to the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB). This board is authorized to use all available methods to collect past due taxes to apply to past-due support. This method is useful against noncustodial parents who are self-employed.
Seeking Contempt of Court: If the noncustodial parent persistently fails to pay child support despite enforcement efforts, the custodial parent may pursue a contempt of court order. This involves filing a motion with the court, requesting that the noncustodial parent be held in contempt for non-payment. If found in contempt, they may face fines, penalties, or even imprisonment.
Court Order to Seek Work: DCCS is able to request the court to order a noncustodial parent to actively and continuously seek employment.
Obtaining Rightfully Owed Support For Your Children
At Harris & McKeown, our team of Certified Family Law Specialists recognize how vital child support enforcement is to ensure the financial stability of your family and the well-being of your children. Our team has been assisting clients throughout Southern California for over 10 years.
If you are currently in the midst of a child support dispute and would like to discuss how you can secure the support your children are owed in a confidential consultation with a Certified Family Law Specialist, schedule an appointment online or by calling (949) 297-6529.
THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.
EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT AND THIS GUIDE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS
LEGAL ADVICE. THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY CLIENT
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE READER AND ITS AUTHOR. IF YOU HAVE LEGAL QUESTIONS, CONSULT WITH A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY.