Child support is a crucial facet of family law that ensures the well-being of children after parental separation or divorce. Child support payments are ordered during custody arrangements to ensure both parents contribute to meeting their child’s needs, not just the parent with primary custody. Both parties should understand the requirements of the child support order and the potential future outcomes if the parent who owes child support misses payments.
Navigating Child Support Requirements and Statute of Limitations in California
In some states, there are limits on how long parents may pursue legal enforcement for overdue child support payments. A limit to how long a person may seek legal action on a complaint in court is called a “statute of limitations”.
Unlimited Pursuit of Past-Due Child Support
Unlike many other legal matters, California sets no statute of limitations for collecting past-due child support. There’s no time limit on a parent’s ability to seek unpaid child support from the non-custodial parent, and the court can enforce child support obligations until the parent pays them in full.
Interest Accrual and Potential Penalties
Interest accumulates 10% per year on the principal amount of unpaid child support, emphasizing the seriousness of fulfilling child support responsibilities and underscoring the law’s commitment to children’s financial well-being.
The concept of interest on unpaid child support is meant to serve as both a financial consequence and a deterrent against parents refusing to pay. The legal rate of 10% interest per year compounds with each passing year the child support remains unpaid. Consequently, the non-custodial parent could end up owing a significantly higher amount than initially ordered by the court.
In some scenarios, courts may impose penalties of up to 72% on child support payments overdue by more than 30 days. California’s legal system takes parental responsibility very seriously, and policies aim to ensure that parents uphold their moral obligation to support their children by penalizing those who fail to do so.
Felony Charges and Stringent Enforcement
In egregious cases of unpaid child support, parents with overdue payments may face more severe consequences, including felony charges. The legal system recognizes the importance of child support and holds individuals accountable for their financial responsibilities towards their children.
While courts usually reserve measures like felony charges for severe cases, the potential for the charge makes it clear that California finds failing to pay to support your child charges a severe criminal act.
Initiating Action for Overdue Child Support
Parents seeking to recover child support arrears can collaborate with the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) without necessarily requiring legal representation. DCSS is a state-run agency that enforces child support orders at no cost to parents who open a case. However, parents with complex cases needing extra assistance navigating the system should seek legal assistance from an experienced family law attorney.
Once filed, this application initiates the agency’s involvement in tracking down and recovering overdue child support:
Involvement of DCSS and its Benefits
Once a parent opens a case with DCSS, the agency will notify the other parent, even if they’ve relocated to a different state, as California child support orders apply across state lines.
An essential step in this process is issuing an income withholding order approved by a judge or agreed to by the other parent. The parent obligated to pay child support (also called the “obligor parent”) has a notice sent to their employer by DCSS, ensuring automatic child support deduction from their paycheck before they receive it.
Ensuring On-Time Payments
Obligor parents must notify DCSS and the custodial parent of any changes in employment. Failure to pay child support can lead to contempt of court, resulting in various penalties such as fines, license suspension, or even jail time.
While child support enforcement measures are in place, complying with the order is crucial. The potential consequences of continuing to miss payments can hinder the obligor parent’s ability to generate income, causing them to fall even further behind on payments, extending the time their child is without adequate support.
Flexible Solutions and Working with DCSS
Sometimes, the court may allow parents to negotiate alternative payment arrangements. These could include lump-sum payments that are lower than the original obligation, combined with interest, or installment plans. Collaborating with DCSS can help parents explore these options while navigating the complexities of child support enforcement.
Need to Revisit Child Support Orders? Contact a Family Law Attorney Today
Legal obligations like child support can have severe consequences if you fail to meet them. Unfortunately, once you start to lose control of the situation, things can quickly become harder to recover from. The absence of a statute of limitations for past-due child support and the significant potential for accrued interest on overdue child support payments emphasizes the seriousness of fulfilling parental obligations in California.
It is wise to seek legal representation as soon as possible if you’re struggling to make child support payments, collect payments owed to your child, or have difficulty managing your current custody agreement. Understanding the nuances of the laws regarding child support requirements is essential for parents navigating the challenges of post-separation financial responsibilities.
By working with an experienced family law attorney and the California Department of Child Support Services, parents can receive support, access valuable resources, and ensure the well-being of their children through timely and consistent child support payments. Schedule a free consultation with Argyris Mah, LLP today by calling 408-214-6366.