Both parents have an obligation to support their children financially and emotionally. However, when is court ordered child support not being paid a problem? If payments are missed, they can negatively impact the life of a child and the ability of a custodial parent to fully provide for them. A child support lawyer can help you enforce a child support order or file a motion against the non-paying parent.
Enforcing Child Support
If you have a child support order, the court can help you enforce nonpayment and collect overdue payments.
Seeking a Motion for Contempt
A court order for child support demands that the noncustodial parent pay money to the custodial parent. If they fail to do that, they may be considered “in contempt” of court. That means the noncustodial parent failed to obey a court order.
A contempt order may be criminal or civil. If a parent who has not paid child support is held in criminal contempt, they may face fines on top of the amount of money they owe to the custodial parent. They may also have to spend time in jail if they do not pay the child support. If a contempt order is civil, a person may also go to jail, but they will be released as soon as the past due support is paid. Penalties may be a combination of civil and criminal contempt.
In order to obtain a contempt order, the parent seeking enforcement of child support must file a motion, or written legal request, for contempt. The motion for contempt should be submitted in the county where the child lives and where the custodial parent is supposed to receive child support. In some situations, the local DCSS office will file a motion or another person acting on the child’s behalf. A child may also file a motion on their own behalf.
There is a time limit, or statute of limitations, on bringing a motion for contempt for nonpayment of child support in California. You only have three years from the date the payment was due to file a contempt action. Thus, if a parent does not pay child support for six years, you can only file a contempt motion regarding the last three years’ worth of payments.
Court Orders to Collect Support
If you file a motion for contempt against a parent who has not paid child support, the court will hold a hearing. If it is determined that they willingly refused to pay, the judge may order a number of penalties, including:
- Fine of up to $1,000 and up to five days in jail
- Up to 120 hours of community service for a first or second contempt or up to 240 hours for a third contempt
- Payment of the custodial parent’s legal fees and costs
- Selling of delinquent parent’s property to pay child support
- Lien on real property
- Wage garnishment to pay child support
- Bank account garnishment
- Garnishment of other benefits or accounts
If a parent can prove they don’t have the ability to pay child support, the court will not hold them in contempt.