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The Consequences of Not Paying Child Support

By Casey Marticorena

Child support is among the court’s highest priorities and it is the public policy of the state of California that each parent will support their children. Back child support does not go away and can exponentially grow due to the interest tacked on to past due payments. The payee of support may be subject to dire consequences for failure to pay. Here are some of those negative consequences.

1. Contempt of Court: This is a violation of a court order and is a quasi-criminal proceeding that takes place in family court. At stake, is a payee’s freedom as he or she can be sentenced to jail time for failure to pay child support. Because of the stakes, the contempt prosecution is highly technical and the court treats the matter as if it were a criminal proceeding. As a result, the payee has a right to a public defender and most likely will assert the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination (right to remain silent). In this case, the moving party has a much higher burden of proof than would be required in a regular civil or family law proceeding.

2. Suspension of Drivers and Professional Licenses: When the Los Angeles County Child Support Services is involved, they often request that the court suspend a payee’s driver’s license or even professional license. This may seem counter-intuitive since, on the surface, this would tend to inhibit someone’s ability to earn money and pay support. For professional licenses, this could cause embarrassment and substantial disruption to one’s livelihood. More often, however, it acts as a high motivator for individuals to quickly act and pay off their child support obligations. Once the obligation is addressed, even if by payment plan, the suspension will be lifted subject to compliance.

3. Lien on Accounts and Property: The court can authorize seizure of bank account holdings and a lien on real property. Thus, the child support obligation can follow the payor/obligee and his/her assets and property.

If you are experiencing difficulties paying child support, it is advisable to contact your family attorney immediately to discuss the state of your situation and how it may be amendable.

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