What happens if you fail to pay child support?

California Law (Family Code 6500) mandates that each parent has an obligation to support a minor child. This means that parents are required to provide for their children, whether or not they currently live with their children. Experienced family law attorneys will tell you that a court may make child support orders in any legal proceeding that involves dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or child custody.  It is important to remember that an order for child support can be made retroactive to the first date of filing of the request for child support.

How much will I have to pay?

Child support is determined by a state guideline formula that takes into account both parents income, timeshare with the child, custody, and other children in the house. Child support payments can be modified by the court at any time, so consult an attorney if you have recently lost your job or had a change in your family situation. You can also use the state’s guideline calculator to figure out if your obligation has changed.


What happens if I fail to pay?

The consequences of failing to pay a child support obligation can be dramatic, so it is important to be informed about the penalties.  Remember that if the court has made a child support order, you are likely required to pay the state who will then pay the other parent.  Any missing payments are considered arrears and the state keeps track of these payments and the interest (10%) that builds.
The Department of Child Support Services has wide latitude to enforce child support orders and can use any of the following methods: (1) suspension of state licensure including drivers licenses, State Bar, Department of Fish and Game, (2) bank levy, (3) garnishment of unemployment benefits, (4) interception of federal and state tax returns, (5) Pas sport holds (where the individual cannot apply for a passport renewal), (6) garnishment of State retirement benefits PERS, and last (7) a contempt proceeding can result in jail time. 

Can I really go to Jail?
Yes.  California law provides that intentional failure to provide for a child under the age of 18 is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 1 year in the county jail and a $2000 fine. Pen C §270.
Typically, an individual who has failed to make child support payments will be arrested and arraigned if they continuously fail to make payments. Failure to follow a court order including a child support order is considered contempt and a court can order jail time for numerous counts of contempt.
If you have a child support order and have failed to make payments, contact a family law attorney, you can contact me at amanda@gordonfamilylaw.com for help.  Even if you have lost your ability to pay, Attorneys are able to work with you to understand your rights and obligations.