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Understanding child support in California

It is important for parents in California to understand child support and how a child support order is enforced. After a child support order is issued, a wage garnishment order is also issued so that the employer of the paying parent takes the ordered amount out of paying parent's wages. If the parents agree, and the local child support agency is not involved, the order for wage garnishment can be stayed and the parents can decide between themselves how the child support payments will be made. If the local child support agency is involved, then it has to agree with the arrangement in order for the wage garnishment to be stayed.

Parents who fail to pay required child support can face serious consequences, including being held in contempt of court. This could result in jail time being imposed. Jail time is reserved for when other enforcement measures have failed but is a serious potential penalty for failure to pay child support. Additional penalties that are possible for failure to pay required child support include tax refund interception, having a bank account frozen, property lien placement, suspension of a driver's license or professional license, passport denial, and credit reporting, just to name a few.

In some circumstances, such as when there has been a change in income, family status, or other factor that would affect a noncustodial parent's ability to pay child support, then child support modification may be possible, as the family law process aids both parents collecting child support and parents paying child support. Based on a significant change in circumstances, child support may be reduced. However, until a modification is put in place, child support enforcement help is available to recipient parents based on a current child support order.

It is important to understand how the family law system can serve as a resource to parents who are either receiving or paying child support. Because of the importance of child support to many parents and children, it is useful to be familiar with how child support orders are enforced and modified in California. When in doubt, it might be time to discuss the matter with a legal professional.

Source: California Courts, "Collecting a Child Support Order," Accessed Jan. 10, 2016

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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