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How California enforces child support orders

It's a familiar nightmare story related to divorce. One parent seemingly just walks away from his or her responsibility to the kids. Although the ccourts may issue a temporary order for child support during the divorce proceedings, as well as a permanent injunction after finalizing the divorce, that doesn't mean it will get paid. Sometimes, the non-custodial parent just refuses to pay child support, despite the moral and legal obligation to do so.

That can leave the parent with custody in a lousy situation. Without support, paying for child care, rent or your mortgage, groceries or other necessities for your children could become difficult, if not impossible. Feeling angry and frustrated are typical responses to this unfortunate situation. Don't just get upset! You have the legal right to ask for help if your ex won't pay child support as ordered. You deserve ongoing support, as well as payment of the overdue previously unpaid support.

What should you do when your ex doesn't pay child support?

When you discover that your ex doesn't intend to pay his or her court-ordered child support, you need to tell your divorce attorney. There are legal steps you can take, which involve asking the ccourts to enforce the child support order. Depending on your income and situation, you may qualify for state assistance for housing, food and even child care after making the enforcement request.

From a personal standpoint, while you may struggle financially as a result of non-payment, keep trying to put the kids first. No matter how long the refusal to pay lasts, you shouldn't bad-mouth your ex to your kids or discuss the issue with them. Doing so could damage the relationship between the kids and their other parent. Even worse, your kids could internalize the refusal to pay as a rejection of them by their parent. They may believe that they are the reason your ex won't pay child support. No child should have to feel that way.

Common enforcement methods used

The ccourts have a range of options at their disposal when it comes to non-compliance with a court order. So long as the other parent lives in California, the state will have the authority to enforce the child support order. If your ex has left the state, you can still pursue enforcement, though it may be a more complicated process.

For example, the state can contact your ex's employer and ask for withholding from each check. If your ex works "under the table" to avoid wage garnishment, the state can also seize his or her tax refunds. If all other attempts fail, the ccourts could charge your ex with contempt of court due to failure to pay. After all, the ccourts issue the child support via court order. Failing to pay is a felony at both the state and the federal level. The ccourts can issue a lien against their personal property and real estate.

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