What Happens if I Don't Pay Child Support?

Most parents have every intention of financially supporting their children; however, for some parents that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, a custodial parent won’t let the non-custodial parent see their children, so the paying parent will stop paying child support. Other times, the paying parent losses their job, or they become disabled or ill and they can no longer afford to pay child support.

Where a lot of paying parents falter is in ceasing their child support payments. They become disabled, ill or unemployed and they automatically think, “I have no income, so I don’t have to pay child support.” This type of thinking is a common mistake because that’s not how child support works. If a court order has been issued for child support, the non-custodial parent has to pay it regardless. Even if they lose their job, they still have to pay child support.

Consequences of Not Paying Child Support

Like other states, parents face serious consequences if they fail to pay child support. If a parent fails to comply with a child support order, the state has several methods for collecting child support arrears, including but not limited to:

  • Holding a delinquent parent in contempt of court.
  • Suspending the parent’s driver’s license.
  • Denial of U.S. passport when arrears reach $2,500.
  • Order the parent to pay the custodial parent’s attorney fees.
  • Place a lien on the parent’s real estate property.
  • Order the parent’s wages to be automatically withheld.
  • Intercepting Lottery winnings and tax refunds.
  • Garnish the parent’s bank accounts (including joint accounts with a new spouse) to pay child support.

Please note that child support arrears cannot be included in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and a parent’s obligation to pay arrears does not end when the child turns 18. Also, when a parent falls behind on their child support payments, they must pay interest on the balance due, in addition to what they already owe. To learn more about child support in California, click here.

If you need help with child support enforcement or a downward modification, contact our firm for a free case evaluation with a San Diego divorce attorney.