You realize you haven’t received this month’s child support payment from your former spouse. You try to contact them about the situation, but they dodge your calls and won’t to your messages.
When you finally do make contact, they play it off and make excuses. When they realize you aren’t willing or able to wait for them to follow through with their court-mandated responsibilities, they become belligerent or even aggressive. What do you do?
How Were The Payments Calculated In The First Place?
First, it’s important to realize this scenario plays out countless times every day all over the world. You are not alone.
California law provides guidelines for courts to use in determining and setting child support payment amounts. Under the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, district attorneys (D.A.s) and/or state’s attorneys are required to help you and your attorney collect those court set child support payments.
As you probably learned a lot about this during the original court proceedings. These guidelines are based on each parent’s monthly disposable net income and time allocation with the child. It’s an amount that should be manageable.
Child Support Modification
To be fair, sometimes circumstances arise that justify a change in child support payments. If the amount is below or above that which is called for in the guidelines, either parent can seek a modification.
Other circumstances also impact payments. Involuntary loss of a job resulting in a loss of income and health benefits are also legitimate reasons. Sometimes the need for a modification change is the result of other events such as the birth of an additional child. A parent sentenced to time in jail may also move the needle.
It’s important to remember that a shift in “time-sharing,” or the amount of time a parent spends caring for their child, can impact the amount of support payments.
Once a parent asks the court to modify a child support order, the court will analyze the new and existing data to rule. That said, even if a person meets the criteria, the courts are often reluctant to make a change.
Related Reading: Modifying Child Support In CA
Failure To Make Child Support Payments
So you’ve played by the rules, gone through the appropriate procedures, and your spouse still won’t pay. Again, Under the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, district attorneys and/or state’s attorneys are required to help you and your attorney collect child support.
What Are Your Legal Options?
The good news is, though it’s a headache, you do have options. You have legal recourse in various forms. But be warned, like most legal matters, they can be expensive and take a long time.
The D.A. can serve your former spouse with papers compelling them to meet with the D.A. and set up a payment schedule. These papers typically state that if your ex refuses to meet with them or pay, jail time may result.
Federal Laws also afford the D.A. the power to intercept tax refunds, seize or place a lien on property, and garnish wages.
If your ex’s employer doesn’t follow through or comply with the wage garnishment, they can then become liable for the funds owed as well. But as you might imagine, making this happen also requires legal intervention.
In more drastic situations, suspension of business or occupational licenses can be used for legal leverage.
Some states even allow the revocation of a deadbeat spouse’s driver’s license and the State Department may refuse to issue a passport to anyone who owes more than $2,500 in child support.
Possible Jail Time
Circling back to the “jail time” solution, this should always be a last resort.
The primary goal is to get the money that you need to support your child. Your ex being jailed doesn’t accomplish that— even if your anger makes it sound like a good solution.
That being said, if nothing else works, the threat of incarceration may serve as a motivator. Most jurisdictions are understandably reluctant to exercise this option, but it exists and may be the one that delivers results.
Child support is one of the largest financial obligations that result from a divorce. Depending on the age and number of children being supported, the payments can last for multiple decades and cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Regardless of how you and your ex feel about each other, the ability to work together in the best interest of the children is essential to their happiness and well being. The key to this is having proper expectations, knowledge, and legal counsel.
Related Reading: Child Support After 18 and Post Secondary Education
Related Reading: 7 Common Child Support Questions Answered
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post and has been revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.