In divorce cases, child support helps the custodial parent pay for food, clothing, shelter, and other childcare expenses. Though child support is critically important, it can also be a subject of heated and contentious disputes. The parent ordered to pay child support may feel that the amount is excessive or unfair, and may respond by paying less than the amount ordered, or even by refusing to pay altogether. Taking this route is a serious mistake, as California’s child support laws allow tough penalties to be imposed on parents who do not pay child support as directed by the family courts. If you are having trouble making your child support payments, or if you need help collecting child support from your ex-wife or ex-husband, you should contact a Ventura child support attorney immediately for legal guidance.
Consequences of Failure to Pay Child Support in California
There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your son or daughter. Nonetheless, child support can sometimes feel like a heavy financial burden to carry, especially if you have recently lost your job or suffered a medical crisis. Fortunately, California’s family courts recognize that a parent’s financial circumstances can change, and in some situations, allow child support orders to be formally modified through a legal process.
If you wish to modify child support, it is critical that you follow this process, because the alternative course of action – defying court orders – will subject you to unwanted and burdensome consequences. If you fail to pay child support in California, you risk the following outcomes:
- The amount you owe can increase, making your financial situation even more difficult than it was before your failure to pay. Specifically, you may be required to pay arrearages with interest. Be advised that, at 10% annually, California has the nation’s highest interest rate on child support.
- Your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked, resulting in loss of your driving privileges. At “best,” this is a serious inconvenience – and at worst, it could set back or damage your career. In addition to loss of your driver’s license, any state-issued professional or occupational licenses or certifications you currently hold can also be revoked or suspended, preventing you from performing your job. License suspensions remain in effect until you have paid all of the child support you currently owe.
- Like utility bills or mortgage payments, child support payments are due in full and on time, consistently. Late or incomplete payments can have a negative impact on your credit score, which can make it harder to qualify for loans.
- If the amount you owe exceeds $2,500, you will be unable to obtain or renew a passport, meaning you will not be able to leave the United States.
- Most seriously, you could be charged with a crime, prosecuted, and convicted of a misdemeanor. If you are convicted of failure to pay child support, you could be fined up to $2,000, and/or sentenced to up to one year in jail. These penalties are set forth under Cal. Penal Code § 270, which provides, “If a parent of a minor child willfully [fails], without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”
Enforcing or Modifying a Child Support Order in California
If you feel that the child support amount you are currently paying is too high, it is not in your best interests to react by withholding or refusing payment, as the aforementioned penalties should make amply clear. Instead of avoiding child support payments, which will merely lead to legal, professional, and financial headaches, the better response is to contact a Santa Barbara child support modification attorney for help obtaining a modification order. This will allow you to request relief lawfully, while avoiding exposure to fines and other penalties.
On the other side of this issue, you may be a custodial parent who is struggling financially because you have not been receiving child support payments, or because the payment amounts are too low to provide your children with the resources and stability they need. This is a stressful position to be put in, but it is very important that you do not respond by withholding visitation, nor by making any threats, which can also expose you to serious penalties. Once again, the safest and most effective course of action is to consult with a Ventura divorce attorney. If your ex-husband or ex-wife is not paying child support, an attorney for child support can help you enforce the order promptly. If payments are being made, but are not sufficient to help support your children, an attorney can help by requesting an increase in child support.
Ventura Divorce Lawyers Can Help Increase or Lower Your Child Support Payments
Whether you need help collecting the child support payments you are entitled to, increasing a child support order, or decreasing a child support order, the knowledgeable legal team at The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC can help. Our family law lawyers in Ventura have more than 22 years of experience helping parents resolve child support disputes, including same-sex parents, parents in the military, adoptive parents, grandparents, and legal guardians. For a free legal consultation about how we can help with your child support matter, contact our law offices at (805) 643-5555 today.