Need Help with Child Support Enforcement in Southern California
FAQ: How can I get help with Child Support Enforcement in Orange County CA? California parents have an obligation to support their children financially. When a child support order has been created, either by one of the parents or by your local child support agency, both parents are expected to follow the terms of the order until it terminates.
However, some parents may refuse to pay child support in spite of a court order. If child support has been established, there are several actions that you can take if your child is not receiving the support to which he or she is entitled. The parent who refuses to pay child support may face several consequences for their failure to pay.
Wage Assignments for Child Support in California
In California, all support orders initially come with a wage assignment, or a wage garnishment. This means that in order to ensure that the support order is fulfilled appropriately, the payments will be taken from the paycheck of the person who owes support before he or she receives the paycheck.
Depending on how the child support order was put into place, there may or may not be a wage assignment in place.
When the local child support agency is involved, for example, a wage garnishment is automatically put into place and the money is collected from the payer’s employer. Failing to pay child support, in this case, is likely not an issue.
Failure to Follow the Terms of a Wage Assignment
If an employer fails to pay child support according to the wage garnishment, your first step should be to write a letter to the employer that simply states that the wage assignment is in place, and as the payer’s employer, they are legally obligated to honor the terms of the order. Let them know that they are overdue for the first payment. If, after a reasonable amount of time, the employer still fails to pay the child support order according to the wage garnishment, you may be able to take the employer to court.
Under California law, failing to fulfill the terms of a wage assignment may mean that the employer is responsible for paying child support.
Placing a Stay on a Wage Assignment
When your local child support agency is not involved in the creation of your child support order, there will still be an automatic wage assignment put into place. In some cases, parents may request that the judge place what is called a stay on a wage assignment. This simply puts the wage garnishment on hold, and allows the two parents to handle payments between themselves. Usually this happens at the beginning, when a child support order is first issued - the wage garnishment will be created and signed by a judge, but will not be served on the payer’s employer.
Placing a stay on a wage assignment for a child support order does leave room for the party responsible for paying child support to stop paying, so it is important to consider whether or not you really want to place a stay on a wage assignment before doing so.
To request a stay on a wage assignment, you’ll need to fill out a form called a Stay of Service of Earnings Assignment Order. You will need to ensure the judge that you have an agreement that states how you will arrange payment. You will need to attend a hearing where the judge will decide whether or not to place a stay on the assignment. In the case that your payment agreement does not work out the way you intended, make sure that you have an accurate record of payments and missed payments.
Asking for a Wage Assignment
One of the first steps that you can take if your child’s other parent has failed to pay child support in full and on time and there is a stay on a wage assignment is to ask a judge to end the stay.
You will need to fill out and submit the same form called a Stay of Service of Earnings Assignment Order, and check the box that says Termination of Stay. Usually, you will not need to attend a hearing to get the judge’s decision, but if you do, make sure to appear. After the judge signs the court order, you will need to serve the wage assignment on the payer’s employer.
If the person who owes support is more than one payment behind and has accrued back child support, you can also ask that the wage assignment includes payments towards back child support.
Falling behind on child support payments may also mean that the payer owes interest on all support until he or she is completely caught up on payments. Interest is charged under California law, and a judge does not have the power to eliminate or alter the amount of interest owed or the interest rate.
What Can a Local Child Support Agency Do For Me?
If your child’s other parent has fallen behind in child support payments, it may be worth your while to involve your local child support agency. In addition to instating a wage garnishment, your local child support agency can help in several other ways.
• Your local child support agency can place a lien on both bank accounts and real property, like a home or vehicle, that the person who owes child support owns in California;
• Your local child support agency can intercept government payouts like tax refunds, disability payments, unemployment benefits, or workers compensation benefits that the payer receives;
• Your local child support agency can suspend professional licenses like a driver’s license, business license, or commercial license until the person who owes child support sets up and follows the terms of an agreement to pay child support;
• Your local child support agency can also use other means to enforce a child support order in California.
Being Held in Contempt of a Child Support Order
Usually, being held in contempt of court is a last resort in California because the consequences can be extreme.
Filing a motion for contempt, if successful, may mean that the person who failed to pay child support according to the child support order can face fines and jail time.
Basically, if a person is held in contempt of court, or in contempt of a court order, it means that the court has determined that the person has willfully disobeyed the terms of the court order. Contempt can be either civil or criminal - so the person who owes child support may face both criminal and civil charges and consequences.
The statute of limitations on bringing a contempt charge for failure to pay child support is three years. This means that in order to be successful, you need to file the contempt charges no more than three years after the date of the missed payment. However, each missed payment is a separate offense, so even if some of the missed payments were more than three years ago, you may be able to file for those that were within the statute of limitations. Either way, it is a good idea to discuss failure to pay child support with a lawyer as soon as possible.
In order to hold the other party in contempt of court, you will need to prove the following three things about the other party.
- There is a valid court order. This is one of the benefits of having a child support order in the first place - it is legally enforceable, and both parties can be held legally accountable. However, if there is no legal court order in place, neither party can be expected to follow the terms of it.
- The accused party is aware of the existence of the court order. In order for the accused party to be held responsible for a violation of the order, he or she must have been aware of the existence of the court order.
- The accused party willfully violated the court order. The final piece that you will need to prove is that the other party intentionally failed to pay child support. He or she may have gone on vacation but failed to pay. However, not being able to afford payments may not fulfill this requirement.
Orange County Child Support Enforcement Attorney
If you have a child support order in place in California, and your child’s other parent has failed to follow the terms of the order, you may need assistance in the enforcement of your child support order. These are some of the options that are available to you. Your child support lawyer or your local child support agency can help you determine which options is in the best interest of your child.
At Yanez & Associates, we offer free initial consultations to new clients, and we’d love to meet you. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced family lawyer in Orange County.