How is child support enforced in California?

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When California parents fall behind on their child support, the state has a number of enforcement options it may use to encourage them to pay.

Family law courts in California and elsewhere often order child support awards. These court ordered payments are meant to ensure that both parents bear the financial responsibility of raising their child. While most people follow through with these obligations, there are situations in which parents fall behind on their payments, or refuse to make them altogether. However, the local child support agency has a number of options for the enforcement of orders.

Wage assignments

California courts order wage assignments anytime they issue child support orders, according to the Judicial Council of California. Wage assignments are issued to paying parents' employers, and instructs them to automatically deduct the child support payments from their wages. These orders provide paying parents' employers with instructions on how much they are to withhold and where to send the withheld earnings.

Benefit garnishment

If parents are not receiving regular paychecks from an employer, it does not necessarily mean they will be able to get away with not making their court ordered payments. According to the California Department of Child Support Services, the state may garnish a portion of people's workers' compensation or state disability benefits if they are behind on their child support. The state may also withhold a portion of their unemployment benefits. In such cases, the funds that are garnished are applied to the paying parents' arrears.

Tax refund intercepts

When parents fall behind on their child support payments, another available enforcement option is the interception of their federal or state tax refunds. Depending on how much they owe, the local child support agency may garnish all or a portion of their refunds and put them toward their back support.

Levies on property and assets

For any number of reasons, people who have property or assets may simply choose not to make their child support payments. In such cases, the local child support agency may put levies on their property. Additionally, levies may be placed on their bank accounts. Through these actions, the state may confiscate funds to apply to parents' unpaid child support.

License suspensions

In some cases, the state may suspend the driving privileges of parents who fall behind or neglect to make their child support payments. Typically, these types of drivers' license suspensions remain in place until the matter is resolved. Additionally, the state may suspend people's professional or recreational licenses. Parents who are behind on their child support may also be denied a passport.

Consulting with an attorney

When California parents fall behind on their child support payments, it may compromise the nonpaying parents' ability to care for and support their children. Those who are owed child support may benefit from discussing their situations with an attorney. A legal representative may help them to understand their rights and options, as well as guide them through the legal process.