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Enforcing child support orders in California

The failure of a non-custodial parent to pay court-ordered child support can be one the most bothersome post-divorce issues imaginable. Usually, the custodial parent depends on these payments for food, clothing, medical care and other aspects of the child's care. In the frequent situation where the custodial parent is not financially well-off, one or two missed support payments can be catastrophic. California recognizes the importance of support payments by providing penalties for anyone overlooking the responsibility to pay according to the court order.

A person who is owed delinquent child support can take a copy of the support order to an Office of the California Department of Child Support Services, and the agency staff will take the necessary steps to contact the other parent. If this process does not work, the delinquent parent often simply refusing to pay, the power of the courts must be invoked.

A judge has several remedies that can be used if the delinquent party is doing nothing more than flouting the support order. These penalties range from fines to imprisonment for contempt of court. The threat of the penalties, rather than the penalties themselves, is often the more effective inducement to pay.

If the parent obligated to make the support payments is facing genuine financial difficulty that occurred after the support order was first issued, that parent can petition the court for an order modifying the support order. The parent seeking the change must show that his or her financial circumstances have changed substantially since the support order was issued. Such changes might include loss of a job, sudden and severe illness or an unexpected increase in the income or financial status of the custodial parent.

If a post-divorce support dispute winds up in court, either parent may wish to consult an experienced family law attorney for advice. This ensures that their rights are protected and the best interests of the child are met by guaranteeing they are financially supported.

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