California parents who do not have primary physical custody of their children are usually required to pay a certain amount in child support every month. However, there are many who simply cannot afford to pay what they owe, potentially causing them to default and face severe legal consequences.
According to a study by the Urban Institute, 70 percent of the total child support that is owed comes from parents who either have no reported income or those who make less than $10,000 a year. While parents can go to court and show proof of their income, those who make less than $10,000 a year may not have the finances to afford legal counsel. As such, they may not even be aware that they can go to court and request that their child support be reduced.
Not understanding how the child support system works or not having access to legal counsel can even have consequences for the children involved. For example, one man was shot and killed when authorities pulled him over for being $18,000 behind in child support. According to the man's brother, the parent fled due to the threat of jail time, which would have caused him to lose his job. As a result, his four children will grow up without their father.
When a parent's circumstances change and he or she can no longer afford the monthly child support payments, the court may reduce those payments. However, before a reduction is made, the parent must take action and actually file a request for a modification of the child support order. Because dealing with family court can be complicated, a family law attorney may assist with filing out paperwork and gathering the parent's essential documents that prove that his or her financial circumstances have greatly changed.