There are many legal complications that come along with being unmarried to your child’s other parent. Issues like custody, visitation, and child support often pose problems for California parents. Most parents want to provide both financial and emotional support to their children, regardless of their marital status. However, there are unfortunately some parents who fail to make their support payments, even when faced with a court order. This can lead to an extremely frustrating and difficult situation for the parent and child who should be receiving the payments.
If your child’s other parent is failing to pay child support, you’re probably asking yourself: what can I do? The state of California provides remedies to ensure a child receives the financial care they have been ordered. The Ventura family law attorneys of Bamieh & De Smeth, PC understand how important your child’s needs are and are committed to ensuring they receive the support they are entitled to. Our attorneys have decades of experience in child support and can provide the confidence and peace of mind you need to tackle this sensitive subject. For a confidential, free legal consultation about child support laws in California, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 today.
Establishing Child Support in California
Before you can take the steps to enforce child support payments, you must be sure that you have an order in place. An oral agreement won’t be enough to take legal action, so if you and your child’s other parent can come to an agreement, you’ll need to memorialize it in writing and have a judge sign off on it. If you cannot come to an agreement, you will need to file an action for child support in your local county superior court. A judge will issue a support amount based on what he believes is in the best interest of your child.
How is Support Calculated in California?
To determine child support, the court will first arrive at a parent’s disposable income. The court arrives at this number by taking the parent’s gross income (all income from any source) and subtracting necessary deductions. Once your disposable income has been calculated, the court will determine your timeshare. Timeshare is the amount of time each parent has primary responsibility for the children. Most states calculate this by counting the number of times a child stays overnight with the parent, but California uses the number of hours per year. At this point, the court will plug all of these factors into a complicated mathematical formula to calculate child support. This number can be adjusted if the best interests of the child require it.
Motion for Contempt to Enforce Child Support Payments in California
There are several court orders that may be used to compel a parent to make child support payments, but a motion for contempt is the most often used. Parents who fail to make their court-ordered child support payments in California will be held in contempt of court. Contempt of court is an offense defined as being disrespectful towards the court of law, and often deliberately disobedient with regard to a specific court order. When it comes to the issue of child support, contempt can be a criminal or civil offense, or a combination of the two. In cases of criminal contempt, the delinquent parent may be ordered to serve jail time and pay fines. For civil contempt, jail time is also a possibility, but the parent will be released as soon as they make the required payments.
The plaintiff (the parent seeking to enforce the child support order) must file a written motion for contempt. The parent who is supposed to be receiving payments, the county of the child’s residence, or the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) may file the motion. Parents seeking to file a motion for contempt should keep in mind that the state of California imposes a three-year statute of limitations (SOL) for the non-payment of child support. This means that from the date a payment was due (but not paid), you have three years to file a motion. If it has been six years of non-payment, the SOL will bar you from brining a suit to claim the first three years’ payments. Parents should work with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that they keep up with filing their claims when necessary and are not prevented from claiming the payment they are due.
Other Court Orders for Collecting Support in California
If the delinquent parent has been found to be in contempt of court, a judge has a wide variety of other orders he can impose. Among others, a judge may decide to:
- Order that a delinquent parent’s wages be withheld to pay child support;
- Order that past due child support be paid from a delinquent parent’s pension plan;
- Fine a delinquent parent up to $1,000 and sentence him or her up to five days in jail;
- Order that a delinquent parent’s property be sold to pay child support;
- Order that a lien be placed on a delinquent parent’s property, like a house or land;
- Sentence a delinquent parent to up to 120 hours of community service for a first or second contempt, and up to 240 hours for a third contempt;
- Order that money for past due child support be garnished from the delinquent parent’s bank account; or
- Order a delinquent parent to pay the custodial parent’s attorney’s fees and other costs incurred when attempting to enforce the child support order.
Keep in mind that if a delinquent parent doesn’t have the financial ability to make support payments, the court generally will not hold him or her in contempt. Although, the parent who claims they are unable to pay must provide proof of their insufficient assets and income. Some federal benefits may be exempt from garnishment, but a court is generally free to order that any of the delinquent parent’s income be used to cover child support. An experienced family law attorney can provide guidance as to which benefits can be used.
Other Penalties for Nonpayment of Child Support in California
Parents who fail to make support payments can face additional penalties as well. If they have been overdue on payments for more than 30 days, the state is permitted to order the DMV to refuse to issue or renew the parent’s driver’s license. If a parent is behind by 120 days, the state will revoke the license altogether. Additionally, the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) maintains a list of delinquent parents and reports them to credit reporting agencies.
Contact an Experienced California Family Law Attorney Today
Fighting to enforce a child support order can be an extremely stressful and frustrating experience. Parents who do not comply with their court orders can cause children to struggle financially and even emotionally. Fortunately for California residents, the Ventura family law attorneys of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC have decades of experience fighting for children to get the support they deserve. We provide aggressive, effective representation to mothers and fathers seeking to enforce the rights of their children. For a confidential, free legal consultation about child support laws in California, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 today.