Divorced California parents often rely on child support payments to help make ends meet. While most noncustodial parents do their best to make their child support payments on time, there are some who attempt to avoid their obligations. In some cases, they may believe that they will not have to pay once the child turns 18.

However, this is not the case. If a parent misses a child support payment, the obligation to pay the amount of back support that is owed does not go away when the child reaches the age of majority or otherwise becomes emancipated. The past due amounts must be paid back in full no matter how old the child is.

The state of California takes child support orders very seriously. If a parent who owes back support refuses to pay, enforcement officials may use a number of tactics to retrieve the funds that are owed. For example, the officials may potentially garnish the parent’s wages, seize tax refunds and revoke drivers’ licenses. These enforcement tactics can even continue well after the child turns 18.

Custodial parents can use child support funds to pay for the child’s health care expenses, for food and for the home where the child lives. If a parent who owes child support is refusing to pay, a family law attorney may assist the custodial parent with getting the child support order enforced. If the noncustodial parent is unable to pay the owed child support due to a change in financial circumstances, an attorney may request a modification to the child support order, but this will not affect any amounts that are past due.