Non-Payment of Child Support
Non-payment of child support has serious legal consequences in California, and you may be charged with contempt of court. You could face imprisonment for this offense, and it could also result in liens on your property and negatively affect your credit score. Simply choosing to avoid your child support obligations is never prudent.
If your financial circumstances have changed or you are unable to pay child support for other reasons, you have the option to petition the court for a child support modification order. Talk to a knowledgeable Orange County divorce lawyer who can help you build a good case to apply for modification of your child support order.
Motion for Contempt
If you are the custodial parent who has failed to receive child support parents from the co-parent, you have a right to file a motion for contempt (a legal request in writing) with the court. The court can hold the non-paying parent in contempt, which means that the court believes they have willfully violated the order of the court.
Contempt may be civil or criminal. If the delinquent co-parent is charged with criminal contempt, they may be punished with imprisonment or fine. Even if the delinquent parent faces civil contempt, they could still be jailed, but may be released on the payment of a certain amount of the child support arrears.
Statute of Limitations
If you want to file a motion for contempt against the non-custodial parent for their failure to pay child support, you have to do it within a specified time limit as per the California statute of limitations. You can file your contempt action within three years from the date when the support payment became due and was not paid.
For instance, if the delinquent parent has failed to make child support payments for five years, you will only be able to petition the court regarding the payments of the last three years. It is best to file your motion for contempt well before the deadline so that you may collect all the child support dues from the other party.
Even if your child has turned 18, the past payment dues for child support continue to be the obligation of the non-custodial parent. Therefore, even in this situation, you should apply to the court within the stipulated time limit to ensure that the other party makes the support payments in full.
Legal Penalties to Collect Child Support Dues
After you file a motion for contempt against the non-custodial parent for the non-payment of child support, the judge will hold a hearing. If the judge determines that the defendant willfully refused to pay, they may order various penalties aimed at collecting the dues. These include:
- Jail time of up to five days or fine of up $1,000. However, Orange County courts usually do not impose a fine in these cases because that money could be used for paying child support dues.
- If it is the first or second contempt, the judge may impose community service of up to 120 hours. For the third contempt, the community service of up to 240 hours can be imposed.
- The attorney fees and other legal costs of the custodial parent for the support order enforcement may be imposed on the delinquent parent.
- Sale of the property of the delinquent parent to pay the support dues.
- Placing a lien on property (such as land or house) of the delinquent parent.
- Ordering that the wages of the delinquent parent be withheld until the support payment dues are cleared.
- Garnishment of support dues from the bank account of the delinquent parent.
- Ordering payment of child support dues from the pension plan, social security disability payments, community property of the delinquent parent’s spouse, workers’ compensation, and almost any other type of source of income of the delinquent parent.
- Driver’s license suspension
- Professional license suspension
- Freezing of bank accounts
- Interception of disability benefits or tax refunds
- Reporting the delinquency to credit bureaus
- Denial of passport if the child support dues are in excess of $2,500
Whether you are a custodial parent seeking child support payment dues or a non-custodial parent looking for protection against penalties or a child support modification order, you should immediately speak to a dedicated Orange County family law attorney for legal advice.
Enforcing Child Support Order in case of Relocation
You have a right to obtain child support payments even if the non-custodial parent has relocated outside California. It is not possible to avoid child support payment obligations just by moving out of state.
Under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), which is a federal law, if you move out of a state where the child support order was originally established, no other state will be able to change that order as long as the child or the other parent is still a resident of that state.
For instance, if your child support order was issued in California, and later you have moved to New Jersey. If now you wish to seek a child support order modification, you will have to apply for it in California, and not in New Jersey. If you are obligated to make child support payments, you will continue to be under that obligation as ordered by the court in California, even if you are now living in New Jersey.
Consult with a Child Support Lawyer in Orange County
If you have failed to make child support payments because of a change in your financial circumstances, the court will not hold you in contempt. But the condition is that you must be able to prove in court that your current financial income and assets are insufficient to honor the support obligation.
On the other hand, if you are a custodial parent, you have a right to collect child support payments as ordered by the court. To enforce these payments, you can file a motion for contempt with the help of a skilled child support lawyer in Orange County.
Child support laws in California are complex, and whether you want to modify the child support order or ensure the enforcement of the existing order, you should seek legal counsel from top-rated family law attorney in Orange County.