If you have child support in place and your child’s parent refuses to pay it, then there are several serious consequences that could take place. There are various things to consider with child support, especially because failure to pay it can result in court hearings or prosecution. What happens if they refuse to pay?
Make Sure There are Agreements in Place
There is not much to be done in situations where there are oral agreements or handshakes. You cannot enforce child support without a court order. Once an amount is agreed on, you must document the number in a written agreement, signed by both of you, and receive a judge’s approval.
How to File for Child Support
There are a couple ways to file for child support in California. You can hire an attorney, fill out forms independently, or contact the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). For directions on how to set up a child support order on your own, you can visit the California Courts’ website. There are different cases you can start based on your situation. Make sure to read them carefully so you fill out the correct documents.
Hiring an attorney is an easier option if you are limited in time and would like assistance during the process. Your attorney files your child support petition for you and is an expert that can greatly enhance your experience during these difficult times. Child custody agreements are a tough situation for both parents and children. Experienced attorneys know how to navigate through the process in a way that benefits their clients and their client’s children.
Contempt of Court
If your ex-spouse refuses to pay for child support, then the court can hold the delinquent parent in “contempt” of court. If the judge determines that you have willingly disobeyed a court order, the court can order you to perform community service, pay a fine, serve time in jail, and pay the attorney fees and costs incurred by the party who is owed the support.
The party who is owed the support must file a motion for contempt. This can only be done within three years from the date the payment was due and not paid. This is known as a statute of limitations. If your child’s parent continues to refuse paying child support, you should file for contempt every three years.
So, you filed for contempt, served the other parent, and have a court date – now what? The court holds a hearing to determine if your child’s parent (now called the “citee”) willingly refused to pay child support. If you are able to prove your case through admissible evidence, the court will find the other parent in contempt. The judge has several options in deciding what sentence to impose, as stated above. Sometimes the court will give the other parent a final, last chance to pay the support to avoid going to jail.
Be Mindful of Your Child
The important thing to remember through this entire process is your child’s best interests. It may be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when you are relying on your child’s parent to pay child support, but your child is your priority and that is all that matters. Do not involve them in the process and do not speak badly about their parent in front of them. Be mindful of their world and making their life better.
This has been a very abbreviated and simplified version of this topic, which is actually complex and can be very difficult to follow through to a successful conclusion. When you face a legal crisis, having the right team to represent you is crucial. If you are seeking legal counsel regarding child custody, visitation, or support, contact our seasoned family law attorneys Norman Dowler LLP.