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Collecting Unpaid Child Support in California

Posted by on in Child Support
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Collecting unpaid child support is an on-going problem for many custodial parents. High unemployment and the national economic situation leads to more people than ever unable to meet their financial obligations including child support payments.

There are a growing number of individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and cannot find work. Bankruptcy, while offering relief from a variety of consumer and medical debts, does not offer relief for a former spouse who is behind in support payments.

California and other states have implemented new ways to help encourage parents to stay current on child support obligations. Even if the non-custodial parent lives in another state, federal child support law requires cooperation between states. The non-custodial parent is legally required to make regular child support payments, regardless of where they live.

California Child Support Enforcement Measures

In order to cut down on the amount of unpaid child support California has enacted provisions that allow for interest and surcharges to be added to delinquent child support accounts. If you have had a change in your income that makes it impossible for you to comply with your current child or spousal support orders it is important that you promptly file for a modification of these orders. The Court only has the ability to modify support orders retroactive to the date that such a request if filed.

California law requires that interest be charged on delinquent child support accounts. In addition, when a parent that is required to pay child support is 30 days or more delinquent, their name can be submitted by the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) to the DMV for suspension of their driver’s license. DMV sends a letter giving the parent 150 days to work with DCSS to pay their past due support. If payment is not made, the driver license suspension will take place. These laws make no distinction between someone who is financially able to make payments and does not and someone who was unable to pay because of job loss or disability (

Here is a list of further options:

  1. 1.A "wage assignment" is typically imposed to collect regular and past-due payments directly from the paying parent's paycheck. Funds are deducted by their employer and remitted directly to the custodial parent.
  2. 2.Fines and/or possible imprisonment may be imposed by the court
  3. 3.Court-ordered earnings withholding which can result in up to 50% of the paying parent's other income being withheld by their employer(s).
  4. 4.Past-due child support may be collected from federal and state income tax refunds, state or property tax credits, and lottery winnings.
  5. 5.Liens may be filed against his or her real property or other assets.
  6. 6.Applications for state issued business, professional and driver's licenses (for example: cosmetologist, contractor, doctor, teacher, attorney, class A, B, and C drivers licenses) to parents with past due child support payments may be denied for new licenses or renewals. Current licenses may also be suspended or revoked. Compliance with an agreement to pay past-due child support is required for reinstatement.
  7. 7.Workers' compensation lump sum payments owed to non-custodial parents may be collected to pay past due child support. (

Interest on Missed Child Support Payments

The State of California allows for interest to be charged on missed support payments at a rate of 10% per year. Interest accrues from the date an installment is due if support is payable in installments, or from date of entry of judgment if a lump sum support order was made.

California also charges interest on back child support at a statutory rate of 10% per year. Interest accrues from date installment is due if payable in installments, or from date of entry of judgment (

Age of Emancipation / Age of Majority in California

Child support must be paid until the child becomes 18, unless the child has not graduated from high school, in which case the child support continues until the child has graduated high school or turns 19, whichever occurs first. California law does not allow the court to impose continuing support beyond the age of 19, unless the child is physically or mentally disabled or otherwise incapacitated from earning a living. However, if the parents have agreed that child support is to continue into the college years, such an agreement will be enforced by the Family Court (

California has no statute of limitations on past due child support payments; child support is enforceable until paid in full. There is also no statute of limitations on establishing paternity. Paternity can be established at any time. Parents in California have options available for collecting delinquent child support. California families may utilize services available through the California Department of Child Services (

If your child is suffering from the effects of unpaid child support payments, we may be able to help. Contact the Law Office of Matthew J. Rudy for a free 1 hour consultation.

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Guest Tuesday, 23 July 2024