When a non-custodial parent falls behind when making court ordered child support payments, the parent who is ordered to receive the payments can be confident in knowing that both state and federal laws will enforce the child support arrangements. Failing to pay child support can have severe and negative implications on the non-custodial parent. These consequences can affect the non-custodial parent in a personal and even a financial manner. While the state and federal laws are in place to help keep child support orders current, the agencies tasked with helping are still subject to common flaws that other governmental agencies see such as overcrowding of the system, long delays to see action and more. The good news is these agencies do have power to make a difference in working towards collecting and keeping child support payments current. This article will offer an overview of both federal as well as state laws and other enforcement measures which pertain to outstanding child support payments.

Child Support: Federal Laws and Regulations

The Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 allows state attorney generals as well as district attorneys the ability to collect outstanding child support payments on behalf of parents who have the primary child custody. The United States Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for managing this along with other federal child support initiatives.

In the event that a non-custodial parent fails to follow the direction of either the state and/or district attorney, he or she can then be subject to penalties, which can include imprisonment. While the possibility of facing jail time is not eminent, it is also not always the first option since these agencies also know incarcerated parents will not be able to make child custody payments since they aren’t working. The ultimate objective is to urge non-custodial parents to make the child support payments; therefore, enforcement usually begins with the restriction(s) or certain rights and/or freedoms. As an example, if a non-custodial parent owes a significant amount of child custody payments, he or she may see restrictions placed in his or her passport. These restrictions can remain in place until he or she becomes current with the outstanding payments.

In accordance with the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, state attorneys have the right to take any of the following measures to against parents who do not pay their court ordered child custody payments:

  • Garnish the offender’s wages,
  • Establish liens against his or her properties or real estate,
  • Report the debt to any applicable credit bureaus,
  • Freeze his or her bank accounts,
  • Suspend his or her professional and/or driver’s licenses, and
  • File contempt orders.

In California child support offices (DCSS) does use some of the available options listed above. The DCSS does share information with the California Franchise Tax Board, California DMV as well as other California State licensing boards. This means that if DCSS wants to impose these restrictions or penalties such as suspending driver license or state issued business licenses, they can do it quickly.

In the Event that Non-Custodial Parents Cannot Make Child Support Payments

While imprisonment can be a punishment for failing to pay child support, the inability to pay will not likely land a non-custodial parent in jail. The court as well as the DCSS understand that situations change. This could be increase, decrease or complete loss of income or even a change in the time share with the children. In these situations the court and DCSS have procedures in place to help you adjust the child support to the current guideline amount. Do note though, these adjustments are usually not retroactive so initiating the process as soon as changes occur will help you obtain a modified order soon than later.

Modification of Child Support

If you have had a financial situation change and are looking to modify your child support order a Legal Document Assistant can help. Legal Document Assistants in California are authorized to prepare the appropriate legal documents for the California family law courts to request modifications. It is important to note that not just the person paying the support can request a modification. If you are the parent receiving support and your income has gone down or the time share with the children has increased you may be able to request a modification that would increase support payments. Legal Document Assistants can prepare and even file the court documents to request a modification. In California, once those documents are filed, the court hearing to determine that modification is typically about 6 weeks later. If you are in need of child support document preparation Just Document Preparation can help. We have been helping prepare child support documents for family law courts since 1996. You can learn more about our service here: Child Support.