Child support is a legal obligation for both parents to financially provide for the upbringing and welfare of their children. Nonpayment of child support is irresponsible and harmful to your children. In California, this responsibility is enforced by the California Child Support Services(CSS), which oversees a network of 47 local child support agencies at the county level. If a parent fails to pay child support, they can face serious penalties. This article will discuss the various types of penalties that can be applied in cases of nonpayment of child support in California.
Penalties for Nonpayment of Child Support
Nonpayment of child support in California can have serious repercussions, including:
- financial penalties (fines, interest on accumulated missed payments, seizure of assets such as bank accounts or property)
- wage garnishment (money is taking directly from your paycheck before you receive it)
- denial of Driver’s License renewal and/or loss of driving privileges
- denial of passport driver’s license renewal,
- even jail time.
Parents who are found guilty of nonpayment may also be required to attend parenting classes or pay additional fees.
The severity of penalties for nonpayment vary depending on the circumstances of the violation and other factors such as the parent’s income level. However, all cases are taken seriously by CSS and penalties may be imposed if payments are not made on time and in full.
If you are struggling to make payments on time or in full due to a negative change, such as job loss, you should immediately address this with your local CSS agency or an attorney who can help you request to modify the child support order. Simply telling the other parent, “sorry, I can’t pay you” is not a good option! The money is for your children, not for the other parent, so not paying is not supporting your children. Hoping that others will feed and clothe your children is not a good plan, plus your debt will continue to accumulate.
The most common penalty for nonpayment is an administrative order which specifies a deadline for making up payments. This order includes continuing to make current (future) payments while providing the missed payments within this certain time period. Failure to do so, can result in wage garnishment or seizure of assets such as bank accounts or property until past due amounts are paid in full.
CSS has the authority to impose financial penalties for each month that a parent remains delinquent on their child support payments. These fines can range from $25-$500 per month depending on the severity of the case and other circumstances such as parental income level and amount owed in arrears. The court may also require parents to pay interest at 1-3% per month on unpaid balances.
In extreme cases, where a parent refuses to comply with orders or willfully does not make payments, DCSS may take further action by filing criminal charges against them or referring them for prosecution under California Family Code section 4053(a). Such cases could result in jail time.
Loss of Licenses
Failure to pay child support could lead to your driver’s, professional, and/or recreational (fishing, hunting, etc.) licenses to be suspended such as until payment is received.
According to Child Support Services (CSS), if your unpaid child support balance reaches $2,500, the U.S. State Department will not issue or renew your passport until your balance is paid in full.
No Grace Period for Missed Child Support Payments in California
Under California law, there is no specific grace period for missed child support payments, like you might get with a credit card account. If a parent fails to make their required payment on time, they will be also responsible for any resulting added penalties or fees that may have been incurred as a result of their failure to pay on time. The amount of the penalty or fee will depend upon how late the payment was made and could include additional interest charges as well as a potential court order requiring immediate payment of the full amount due.
What to Do if You Are Not Getting Expected Support Payments
If you are a parent who is entitled by court order to receive support payments, and are not receiving them at all, in full, or on time, contact the local county’s Child Support Services office immediately so that they can discuss ways to enforce the support order. You could also have the attorney who handled the original child support order look into it for you. Do not feel guilty for trying to enforce the order. Your children are counting on you to get the money they are entitled to.
The California Support Services and your children would prefer you pay your obligation and on time instead of having to assign you penalties. Rather than be delinquent in child support obligations, it is best for you to discuss your situation with an attorney or CSS.
If you are having trouble getting the required payment, again discuss your situation with an attorney or CSS. Call CSS automated service line at 1-866-901-3212 with any questions you have regarding your child support payments. However you may want to hire an attorney to help you, especially if you are not getting any resolution with CSS.
It is important for all parents who are legally responsible for paying child support to understand their obligations under state law and fulfill their obligation for their children’s sake. Feel free to contact the Law Offices of Bradley Bayan at (650) 364-3600 to discuss how we can help.