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How to deal with delinquent child support payments

When a couple with children separates, child support is essential to make sure the children are taken care of even if their parents are no longer together. A court order will detail all child custody and support issues and specify how much the non-custodial parent needs to pay every month to provide for the child's basic needs. Typically, a parent has to pay child support until the child turns 18-years-old, unless otherwise noted in the child support order.

Unfortunately, many parents in California fail to make their payments on time and in full, for a number of reasons. Some parents refuse to pay to "get back" at their ex-spouse, while others simply cannot afford the payments. However, failure to pay child support is against the law. First, the non-custodial parent will receive a Child Support Warning Notice to let them know that they have an arrears balance. Failure to take action after being notified of delinquent payments can result in significant financial penalties, license suspension, passport holds and even jail time.

If you are the non-custodial parent who cannot make payments, there are steps you can take to avoid violating the law. First, you should contact your local agency immediately to report your inability to pay. If you have experienced a change in circumstances, you can file for a child support modification. A change in circumstances refers to significant life events, such as a loss of a job or a decline in your health. When a parent does not pay child support, it is the child who suffers.

Source: California Department of Child Support Services, "Noncustodial Parent FAQs," accessed on July 24, 2017

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