In California, noncustodial parents are generally required to make child support payments until a child turns 18. In some cases, support payments continue until a child is 19 if he or she is not yet out of high school. However, if a parent owes back child support, he or she is still required to make those payments regardless of how old that child is.
When a parent is behind on child support, he or she is said to be in arrears. The penalties for being in arrears include the loss of a passport or a driver's license. Other possible penalties include wage garnishment, having a tax refund seized or spending time in jail. Enforcement actions may still take place after a child turns 18, and a parent may not file for bankruptcy in an effort to have the debt discharged.
Parents who are having trouble collecting past due child support may wish to talk with an attorney. It may be possible to take action to ensure that a child gets the financial support that he or she needs. However, parents may wish to consider working out the issue on their own as it may help to preserve relationships between everyone involved.
If necessary, a child support order may be modified to help a parent keep up with his or her support obligation. Orders may be modified if a parent loses a job or experiences a sudden medical expense that makes it difficult to make payments as currently ordered. Those who owe child support may need to continue making payments as currently ordered until a new agreement can be reached and approved by a judge.