What are the penalties for failing to pay child support?

Parents generally understand the importance of being involved in their child's life. They know that their physical, emotional and financial support is crucial to the well-being of their child and take that responsibility very seriously.

However, there are times when a parent is unable or unwilling to fulfill their obligations as a parent. This often becomes a serious concern when parents are unmarried or get divorced and need to legally establish things like child support and visitation. In this post, we will explore some of the consequences of failing to comply with child support orders and what that can mean for California parents and children.

Child support orders are intended to benefit the child by assuring that both parents contribute to their child's welfare. Generally speaking, non-custodial parents will be ordered to pay child support to help the custodial parent provide for their child. Unfortunately, some parents fail to comply with these orders.

In the event that a parent fails to pay child support, there will typically be serious penalties. These penalties could be financial in the form of interest added on to the unpaid payments or wage garnishment. A delinquent parent could lose his or her license until the matter is resolved. Unpaid child support could also be grounds to find a parent in contempt of court, which can and often does result in a jail sentence.

Not all parents purposefully fail to make child support payments. In some situations, his or her financial situation has changed dramatically and keeping up with payments is all but impossible. Under these circumstances, it may be wise to explore a child support modification to avoid serious consequences.

In any case of unpaid child support, it can be crucial for parents who are collecting support and parents who are paying support to understand their legal rights and options. Speaking with an attorney can be an important step in this process.

Source: The Judicial Branch of California, "Child Support," accessed on Feb. 23, 2015

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