We’re all familiar with the idea of the “deadbeat” parent who doesn’t make their child support payments, but the real question most people need to be answered is: What can I do about it?
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 respond 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 of all, it’s important to realize this scenario plays out countless times every day. 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 Amendment of 1984, district attorneys and state’s attorneys are required to help you and your collect those court-ordered child support payments.
As you probably learned 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 set as an amount that should be manageable given the circumstances.
Related Reading: 7 Common Child Support Questions Answered
Child Support Modification
To be fair, sometimes circumstances arise that justify a change in child support payments. If financial realities or the needs of the child change, either can seek a modification.
Other factors also impact payments. Involuntary loss of a job resulting in a loss of income and health benefits are 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. Shifts in “time-sharing,” or the amount of time a parent spends caring for their child, present another scenario.
Once a parent asks the court to modify a child support order, the court analyzes the new and existing data to determine a ruling.
It’s important to be aware that, child support modification is an uphill battle. Even if a case meets the criteria, the courts are often reluctant to change support amounts once in place.
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. Don’t worry, there are ways to proceed.
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 district attorney can serve your former spouse with papers compelling them to meet with officials and set up a payment schedule. These papers typically state that if your ex refuses to meet with them or pay, fines and jail time may be the result.
Related Reading: Can My Ex Come After My New Spouse’s Income?
Federal law also affords the district attorneys the power to intercept tax refunds, seize or place a lien on properties, and even garnish wages.
If your ex’s employer doesn’t follow through or comply with the wage garnishment, they can then be held liable for the funds owed as well. But as you might imagine, making this happen also requires legal intervention. Which only further complicates an already complicated situation.
In more drastic situations, suspension of a business or occupational license 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.
Related Reading: Can I Still Smoke Weed? Legal Marijuana and Child Custody
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 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.
In the end, it’s best to remember the ultimate purpose of these payments, to care for and provide for your children. That’s the point and that’s what you should keep in mind.
Related Reading: Can Child Support Continue After 18?