Why you don’t want to get behind on child support

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Determining child support is a significant part of the divorce agreement for parents. The parent with primary custody of the children often depends on child support payments to continue to raise their children without a drastic change to the lifestyle they have come to know.

For the parent who is ordered to pay child support, there can be significant penalties for not making the payments in full and on time. That’s why if you are unable to make your payments, it’s important to notify the court and try to get your child support order modified.

California parents who get behind on their child support obligations can face the following penalties:

— If you do not make your payments as ordered and do not seek or are not granted a modification, interest will begin to accrue on what you owe. The rate for California payments that were due from 1983 onward is 10 percent per year.

— Your wages can be garnished for the amount that you owe. This can include more than the actual amount owed. Meanwhile, interest continues to accrue on the balance you owe until it is paid off.

— If a court determines that you are able, but not willing to make your payments, you can be held “in contempt of court” and face jail time.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in arrears on child support payments. Sometimes, their financial situation has changed and it’s hard to come up with the money. In some cases, there is confusion regarding the amount they are required to pay and/or the dates on which it’s due. Some people feel that the amount they have to pay is unfair, or they have issues with their ex-spouse and simply refuse to pay.

If you are able to pay, you definitely should. You’re only going to cause problems for yourself and potentially harm your children if you don’t. If you can’t meet your obligations, notify the court right away so that you can help avoid penalties. Whatever the situation, it’s best to get experienced legal guidance.

Source: California Courts: The Judicial Branch of California, “What if we don’t agree on the amount of child support?,” accessed June 17, 2015

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