Can I Go to Jail for Not Paying Child Support?


When a judge orders you to make child support payments after a Pasadena divorce, the payments are not optional. If you fail to pay your child support on time, you face a variety of legal penalties.

In the United States, you can't go to jail for not being able to pay your debts. However, refusing to pay child support involves ignoring a court order. So you could hypothetically be placed in jail for contempt of court if you did not pay your child support.

Jail is considered a last resort enforcement method. Wage garnishment, interception of your income tax refund, or suspension of your California driver's license are the first enforcement methods the state will try. Professional licenses can also be suspended, if applicable.

If you want to travel out of the country, you will have trouble if you are behind on your support payments. Federal law states that a noncustodial parent with a past due child support obligation of $2,500 or more can not be issued a passport.

Interest will be charged on all overdue support payments. The current interest rate is 10% per year.

If you legitimately can not pay your child support because of a change in your financial circumstances, you need to file papers to ask the court to reduce your payments. Payments are not automatically lowered when you lose your job or become too ill to work. Until you request the court to take action, the debt continues to accumulate. Even if you were to file for bankruptcy, you would still owe child support.

The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) oversees child support enforcement. There is a local child support agency (LCSA) in every county within the state.

How Can We Help?

If you have questions regarding your child support payments, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at Our Pasadena family law attorneys can help you take care of your debt as quickly and efficiently as possible.