It’s no surprise to learn that a divorce can be especially hard on children. Because of this reality, the law requires that both parents remain responsible for continuing to provide for a minor’s well being.
But, sometimes a parent doesn’t contribute his or her fair share financially, leaving the other parent and child in a difficult position. If you are in a situation where a father refuses to pay, you have several options under the law.
Establishing Child Support
Now, the first step in getting a father to support a child is to verify that you have an existing court order. In most cases, child support orders are part of a divorce or legal separation. They can also be ordered by the court for unmarried parents or through a domestic violence restraining order.
If you are in one of the above situations and do not currently have a support order in place, the process can be initiated by filing a legal document known as a “petition.” Because the type of petition you will need will depend on your unique situation, it’s always best to consult with a qualified family law attorney that can advise you on how best to proceed.
Wage Assignment for Child Support
Keep in mind that the courts consider the financial support of children to be of utmost importance. For this reason, judges issue what is known as a “wage assignment” as part of every child support order. The assignment directs the father’s employer to deduct child support payments directly from the parent’s paycheck.
The money is first sent to the California State Disbursement Unit, which then forwards the payment to the parent owed support. To put the assignment in place, you must prepare and file the appropriate paperwork, providing information about the father and his employment. Note that wage assignments are typically approved automatically, meaning it’s not necessary to show that the father is behind on any payments.
Now, in the event that an employer does not make the required deductions, you have a couple of options. First, you may choose to write to the employer explaining to them their legal obligation. If this fails, you can take them to court. The law is very clear on the wage assignment rules and an employer could be held responsible for the support obligation for failure to withhold.
Note that parents can agree to stop or “stay” a wage assignment by filing the appropriate paperwork with the court. You might consider this option if the father has another arrangement in place for making payments, such as significant amounts in savings or an alternative income source.
But, keep in mind that if a parent chooses to not make payments after the stay is in place, you can reinstate the wage assignment by filing a document known as a “Termination of Stay.” Note that this may require you to attend a court hearing before the stay is lifted. This process can be complex, so it’s always best to speak with an attorney who can evaluate your case and recommend a path forward.
Enforcing an Unpaid Child Support Order
Sometimes a wage assignment is not effective in getting a parent to pay his or her support obligation. This may be due to the father either being unemployed or earning less than the monthly obligation. If this occurs, there are other steps you can take to enforce the order.
These options are often done in collaboration with the local Child Support Agency and include:
- Suspension of the parent’s driver’s license
- Passport suspension
- Revocation of the father’s professional and occupational licenses
- Liens on the father’s bank account and other property
- Interception of tax refunds
- Interception of lottery winnings
Note that a parent behind on support is responsible for all unpaid amounts, plus an additional 10% interest. Further, a parent’s failure to pay may also be reported to national credit agencies, which can negatively impact the person’s credit score.
Consequences for Not Paying Child Support
Unfortunately, there are instances where none of the above methods work and a father continues to willfully avoid paying support. In this case, the parent may face penalties, including being found in contempt of court.
This can be serious and lead to jail time if the father chooses not to comply. However, keep in mind that the court doesn’t take this type of punishment lightly, and it is often seen as a last resort when all other options have failed.