Enforcing a California Child Support Order

While most parents will do everything to care for their child’s well-being, there are some who think of child support as a voluntary offering; rather than a financial responsibility. However, the fact is the failure to comply with support obligations has serious legal consequences under California law, and you do have options to enforce your rights as the recipient parent in a court order. Therefore we recommend you discuss your situation with an experienced child support lawyer, but some general information may be useful.

Child Support is an Order of the Court

Presuming you have established paternity and a court has issued a ruling on child support, the order is akin to a law directed at the paying parent. In addition, it has legal effect and is binding, and there can be severe implications if a party does not strictly adhere to the conditions set forth. There may be valid reasons behind a person’s failure to pay, such as a change in circumstances. However, these must be raised before the court; non-payment is not the proper remedy.

Motion for Contempt

 The California Department of Child Support Services is tasked with managing child support issues in the state, and there are procedures for enforcing your right to payment from a non-paying parent. In fact, you initiate the process by filing a motion, which is a written request you make to the court having jurisdiction over your case. As a result, a motion for contempt seeks to have a non-paying parent found in contempt of court, i.e., in violation of the court’s order on child support.

Penalties for Non-Compliance of a Child Support Order

 If successful on a motion for contempt, the court will direct the child’s other parent to pay all current and past due amounts immediately – or face sanctions. Similarly, penalties may be criminal or civil in nature, and may include:

  • Freezing bank accounts;
  • Garnishing wages;
  • Suspending professional licenses;
  • Intercepting income tax refunds;
  • Suspending driving privileges;
  • Cancelling a passport;
  • Reporting non-payment to the credit bureaus;
  • Placing liens against real estate;
  • Ordering fines or payment of attorneys’ fees incurred by the recipient parent; and,
  • Sentencing the person to jail time, in serious cases.

Trust a California Child Support Lawyer with Your Matter

For more information or assistance with enforcing a child support order, please contact the Law Office of Charles D. Stark. Our firm represents clients in Santa Rosa, CA and throughout Sonoma County, and we can help you understand your options.


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