For single or divorced parents, child support can be critical to their financial independence. However, there are many issues to consider when paying or receiving support. For instance, a father may not be required to financially support a child until paternity is established. After that has been done, both parents are required by California law to support the child.
There are many consequences for those who fail to pay their child support. In some cases, penalties may include jail time in addition to paying interest on the amount owed. Wages may be garnished or tax refunds garnished to pay back support. It is also possible to have professional licenses suspended until the past due amount is repaid.
Parents who receive payments should insist that they be made through the local child support enforcement office. Doing so ensures that there is a record of all support payments made and a record of all payments received. This prevents a situation where a parent claims to have made a payment when he or she didn't. Another benefit is that the agency can provide assistance with collection and enforcement efforts.
Judges follow state guidelines when determining child support payments, although in some cases they have discretion. A noncustodial parent who has been ordered to pay must do so in a timely manner. However, there are often situations where the payer becomes legitimately unable to meet those obligations, such as an unexpected job loss or a medical emergency. In such an event, it would be advisable to obtain the assistance of a family law attorney in filing a motion with the court seeking a modification of the amount.