Every child is entitled to financial support from his/her able bodied parents, regardless of whether they are married or divorced.
Sadly, this doesn’t always mean child support is paid or received. In fact, it isn’t unusual for parents to dodge child support obligations for any number of reasons.
A common reason parents give for evading a support is they don’t want to give the other parent money to spend.
Because child support evasion has been happening in the US for a very long time, the federal government has established the Office of Child Support Enforcement, which partners with state, local and tribal governments to regulate child support enforcement.
In California, the Department of Child Support Services and local agencies help parents establish child support obligations, collect and distribute funds, locate absentee payors and provide an array of other related services. However, in most divorces, child support is established and enforced in family court by parents and their attorneys.
If a child support obligation is established by or through a local child support agency in California, the payor parent’s wages will be garnished and the payments processed by a centralized support system.
If parents in California negotiate a support agreement or an order is entered in court without the assistance of a local support agency, the paying parent may make child support payments directly via cash, check or electronic transfers.
Many states including California, may assign interest at the legal rate to overdue child support. In California the current interest rate is 10% for each late payment.
The National Conference of State Legislature has a detailed chart of the interest rates that may be charged in each state for arrears (past due support) that were adjudicated and/or retroactive. You will find the child support interest chart here.
Some of the most difficult child support enforcement collection cases I have seen involved parents living in different states and/or self employed spouses who were able to manipulate their incomes in order to avoid paying support. Collecting support in these situations can be very difficult, but Judges have the authority to and do make a number of different orders to collect the arrears and/or penalize the support evader. For example, a Judge may place levies on bank accounts or property or order a license suspension, passport denial, tax refund attachment and/or government benefit garnishments.
Historically I have had divorced clients successfully use the Department of Child Support Services to enforce child support arrears (they seem to have an uncanny ability to find people’s assets). But recently a few clients didn’t have any much luck with the Departments for various reasons. Two of the reasons being that the parent hadn’t used a local support agency to establish the original order and a divorce case was still pending in Court.
If your spouse or ex-spouse is in arrears (late) you may be able to initiate an enforcement or collection action with your local child support agency or file a motion/request in your divorce.
If you intend of enforcing support and return to court, remember that you too are obligated to support your child or children if you can and your spouse or ex may initiate a support modification that could lead to a reduction or reversal in the support order. If you would like to know whether you might be obligated to pay child support to your spouse read my article on How to Calculate child support.
If you’d like my help with a child support enforcement issue, schedule a consultation below.