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Failure to pay child support in California could mean jail time

Child support is the regular payments made to cover a child's day-to-day expenses like food, medical care and clothing. In California, the amount of child support is calculated according to a formula that factors in both parents' incomes. California support orders can include penalties for failure to pay accordingly. These penalties may be issued in the form of a fine, or as criminal punishment, as in the recent case involving former NBA star Dennis Rodman.

Rodman is facing up to 20 days in jail if he fails to pay approximately $860,000 in back spousal support and child support. Rodman argues that he paid as best he could.

Rodman was found in contempt of court several months ago when an Orange County judge ruled he failed to pay child support for his two children. Rodman had been ordered to pay $50,000 per month, although that monthly sum was later reduced to $4,500. The contempt finding was based on the $50,000 order, which Rodman argues is unreasonable. Rodman states he will continue seeking to have a court overturn his contempt charge.

The growing application in child support cases of criminal sentencing and contempt orders reflects a loss of patience with parents who "won't pay" child support as opposed to parents who "can't pay." While vast resources are being poured into programs to help those who "can't pay," states like California are aggressively pursuing the "won't pay" parents who, despite having the means to pay up, fail to do so.

However, sometimes even after everything is said and done and arrangements for child support are final, major changes in a parent's circumstances may require a reevaluation of the original order. Modifying such arrangements is best done in cooperation with a good attorney who can advise parents of what level of support will be in the child's best interest as well as realistically within a parent's means.

Source: Contra Costa Times, "Dennis Rodman 'broke, sick' facing jail sentence," Lauren Williams, March 28, 2012

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