In California, both parents have a duty to provide support for a child. When the parents are unmarried, divorced, or separated, child support is usually paid to the parent with primary custody of the child. These payments are intended to cover:
- The child’s basic needs, including food, clothing, and housing
- Medical expenses
- Education expenses
- Other reasonable expenses
Child support payments must be made according to the schedule in the California child support order. Payments should be paid on the specified dates in the specified amount. Failure to follow a child support order can have negative legal consequences.
If a parent misses one or more child support payments, the court may issue a warrant for the arrest of that parent. The warrant may be classified as either civil or criminal:
- Civil (“capias”) warrants: Failure to obey a court order can be considered contempt of court. However, a civil warrant is usually only issued when the custodial parent has filed for contempt of court. Consequences of a civil warrant include fines, less than one year of jail time, or both.
- Criminal warrants: A criminal warrant may be issued if federal or state prosecutors become involved in a child support case. This typically occurs when the non-custodial parent is severely behind on payments and owes a significant amount of unpaid support. Criminal warrants can be enforced anywhere in the U.S. A criminal arrest can lead to fines, a jail sentence of one year or longer, or both
Other possible consequences of failure to pay California child support include:
- Mandatory wage withholding: The Family Support act of 1988 allows child support payments to be withheld from the paycheck of the parent who owes child support to a custodial parent.
- Health insurance coverage assignment: If a non-custodial parent is ordered to provide health insurance for the children, the cost of the insurance may be deducted from the noncustodial parent’s paycheck.
- Property lien: A property lien can be put on any personal property and real property owned by the parent who owes child support. This includes homes, bank accounts, and retirement funds.
- Denial of tax refund: If a non-custodial parent owes child support, his tax returns will be used to pay that debt.
- Loss of license: The California DMV may suspend the driver’s license of a parent who owes child support. Driving privileges will be reinstated once a payment plan is established. Hunting and boating licenses may also be denied.
- Revocation of passport: The passport of a parent who owes child support can be revoked. This can affect immigration status.
If a parent is having difficulty making California child support payments, his first step should be to contact a San Francisco child support lawyer. It may be possible to modify the child support arrangement. A parent who is not getting court ordered child support may also need the assistance of a child support attorney.
To discuss your situation, please call The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 415-341-1144.