When divorces turn ugly, all bets are off. Couples who once worked beautifully together are suddenly fighting each other for every little thing, particularly when it comes to the children produced by their marriage. From fighting over the division of time in shared custody to refusals to pay or adjust child support as temporarily ordered by the courts during the divorce proceedings, former couples can often feel very strongly about their custody and child support situations. That depth of emotion and possibly antipathy, however, can sometimes lead to poor decision-making. No matter how your relationship with your soon-to-be former spouse has devolved, you should absolutely prioritize protecting and caring for your children during the divorce proceedings.
Paying support is important, even if you think the amount is wrong
Immediately after one spouse has filed for divorce in California, the courts will create and enforce a temporary custody order, which typically also includes a temporary support order for the children, possibly the ex-spouse as well. Many times, these temporary orders are based solely on information provided by the parent filing for divorce, so the noncustodial parent has little input. The noncustodial parents, who are often the nonfiling parents, will have to go to court to establish better terms for visitation and custody.
They will also have to have a court hearing to adjust their support levels if it is believed they are too high or place an undue burden on the noncustodial parent. The state provides online tools to verify if the amount being paid is appropriate. If your support order differs from the estimate provided, your attorney may be able to help in requesting a hearing to adjust your support and then advocating for you at that hearing.
Nonpayment can have severe consequences
In some cases where the noncustodial parent has refused to pay for months or even years, the state may become involved, possibly garnishing paychecks or tax returns for the noncustodial parent or even issuing a bench warrant for one's arrest if child support is not brought into compliance shortly.
Even if you're not worried about having your paycheck garnished or being arrested for failing to pay your support as ordered, not paying your child support as required by the courts can damage your credit score. Typically, a parent who has fallen into arrears will be sent a letter and given a period of time to bring their support into compliance. If they fail to do so, however, the delinquent amounts may be reported to credit agencies. Because child support renews every month, the amounts may continue to show up until your child reaches the age of majority, and may still show on your credit report for seven years afterward.
Set a positive precedent
Paying your support in full and on time demonstrates to the court that you have the ability to provide for your children and that you are putting their well-being first. This positive precedent can help when the time comes for the judge in your divorce case to finalize custody and support arrangements. If you believe that your child custody, visitation and support situation is unfair or inappropriate, hiring an experienced family law attorney is the best and fastest way to resolve the issue.