How Long Can You Go Without Paying Child Support in California?

In California, parents who have recently divorced and have children typically have a child support agreement. This agreement is meant to support the children financially and ensure that both parents contribute to their care. Unfortunately, not all parents who are supposed to pay child support actually do so. When this happens, the other parent is often left struggling to make ends meet. In some cases, the non-paying parent may even be criminally charged with a felony due to the amount of child support they owe, which is seen as a form of theft and child neglect.

If you are a parent who is struggling to receive what you are entitled to in child support payments from the other parent, or you are the non-paying parent who is concerned about being charged with a felony, it is important to know the child support laws in California. By having a stronger understanding of the law, you can better protect your rights and ensure that your child gets the support they need.

What Is a Child Support Order in California?

In California, a child support order is typically implemented when parents get divorced or separated. This order dictates how much the non-custodial parent must pay in child support each month. The amount of child support ordered will depend on many different factors, including:

  • The income of both parents
  • The number of children that the parent has
  • The amount of time the parent spends with the child
  • The child’s health insurance costs
  • The cost of childcare
  • The health of the child’s relationship with each parent

If one parent is not paying the required child support, the other parent can take legal action. For example, they may be able to file a contempt of court action or even a criminal complaint. This will enforce the child support order and ensure that the non-paying parent is held accountable for their actions.

When Does a Felony Child Support Charge Occur in California?

A felony child support charge in California can occur when the non-paying parent owes $2,500 or more in back child support. This is typically seen as theft, as the parent is essentially stealing from their child by not paying the support they owe.

Other forms of punishment less severe than a felony charge include:

  • Wage withholdings: The non-paying parent’s employer can withhold a portion of their wages to pay the overdue child support. The court will determine the frequency and total amount per paycheck.
  • Property liens: A lien can be placed on the non-paying parent’s property, including their home, car, or boat. This means the property cannot be sold or transferred until the child support debt is paid in full.
  • Health insurance coverage: The non-paying parent may be required to offer health insurance coverage for the child. If they are not already doing so, the parent may be required to get health insurance through their employer or sign up for a policy on the open market. Another avenue is for mandatory withdrawals from their paychecks to cover a healthcare option that the custodial parent selects.
  • Passport denial: The non-paying parent may have their passport denied or revoked if they owe a significant amount of child support. This can make it difficult for the parent to travel outside the country.

Because the court is always determined to put a child’s best interests first, it will often try to work with the non-paying parent to find a solution acceptable to both parties. There are many creative avenues to collect the debt, and a felony charge should always be considered a last resort.


Q: How Long Does a Non-custodial Parent Have to Pay Child Support in California?

A: In California, a non-custodial parent usually must pay child support until the child turns 18 years old. However, there are some official exceptions to this rule. For example, if the child is still actively attending high school when they turn 18, the non-custodial parent may be required to continue paying child support until the child graduates.

Q: Can a Child Support Order Be Modified in California?

A: Yes, a child support order can be modified in California. If there is a significant change in circumstances, either parent can petition the court to modify the child support order. Some examples of a significant change in circumstances include a job loss, a promotion, or a change in the child’s custody arrangement.

Q: What Are the Traditional Methods for Collecting Child Support in California?

A: When on-time, regular payments are made, the transaction is typically handled between the non-custodial parent’s employer and the custodial parent. The money is deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck and sent to the custodial parent. If this method is not possible or the non-custodial parent falls behind on payments, other methods to collect child support in California can include wage withholdings, property liens, and passport denial.

Q: What If the Non-custodial Parent Lives in Another State?

A: If the non-custodial parent lives in another state, collecting child support can be more complicated. The custodial parent will need to file a request with the court in their own state, and the court will then send the request to the child support enforcement agency in the non-custodial parent’s state. The child support enforcement agency in the non-custodial parent’s state will then take action to collect the child support.

Q: Why Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me With My Child Support Case?

A: Although you are not required to hire an attorney to help you with your child support case, it can be beneficial to do so. An experienced attorney can leverage their history of dealing with child support cases to help you receive the best possible outcome. They can also help ensure that all the necessary paperwork is filed correctly and in a timely manner. This can save you a significant amount of time and stress.

Contact Paula D. Kleinman, APLC, Today

If you are a parent who is owed money or a non-custodial parent who is struggling to pay child support, it is vital to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. The attorneys at Paula D. Kleinman, APLC, have extensive experience handling child support cases in California and can help you receive the outcome you deserve. Contact the law firm today to schedule a consultation.

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