What Happens When You Don't Pay
Paying court-ordered child support is your responsibility. Unpaid child support will still be owed - with interest.
Under California law, the person ordered to pay child support (obligor) is required to pay the court-ordered child support on time and in full. An obligor who cannot meet the full obligation or cannot make the court-ordered payments must contact this department as soon as possible to avoid or minimize any adverse actions that may be taken.
Lawmakers view child support as a very important issue. Based on the belief that children are our most valuable resource and our best hope for the future, both State and national lawmakers pass legislation each year emphasizing the importance of paying child support.
Child Support Enforcement
The State uses numerous tools to collect past due child support, which are defined on the next tab entitled, "Consequences". Be aware of the actions that may take place, and remain diligent in paying your child support on time. If you are encountering difficulty remaining current in paying your court ordered child support, please contact our office immediately.
Each local child support agency is required to retain case records for four years and four months from the date of case closure unless there is an open federal or State audit or pending civil litigation pursuant to Family Code section 17312(c) and 22 California Code of Regulations section 111450. It is recommended for case participants to keep copies of checks, bank records, and pay receipts for a minimum of 20 years.
Consequences of Missing Payments
If an obligor is late, or fails to pay court-ordered child support, the State has numerous tools to collect support, including:
- Credit Reporting: Paying child support late can affect an obligor’s credit rating. Every payment and/or failure to pay is reported to the major credit reporting agencies.
- Passport Denial: If a person owes $2,500 or more in past-due child support, the U.S. State Department will not issue or renew a passport until all past-due child support is paid. In most cases, a passport is needed to travel outside the U.S.
- Property Liens: A real property lien will be filed against the obligor parent on all cases. In most cases when the property is sold or refinanced, partial or full payment of the real property lien will be paid towards the past-due support.
- State Licensing Match System: Driver’s licenses, business licenses, and permanent state-issued professional licenses (for example, contractor, doctor, teacher, attorney, cosmetologist, etc.) can be suspended or withheld until past-due child support is collected.
- Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) Full Collection Program (FCP): The department must alert the FCP anytime a person is more than $100 and 60 days past due in paying support. FCP can take funds using information found through the Financial Institution Data Match from bank accounts, rental income, royalties, and dividends to collect child support.
- Income Tax Refund Intercepts: The internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) can intercept tax refunds for past-due support.
- Board of Equalization Sales and Use Tax Intercept System: Sales tax refunds can be intercepted.
- Disability Insurance Benefit Intercept System: Part of state disability payments owed to obligors can be intercepted.
- Unemployment Insurance Benefit Intercept System: Part of state unemployment benefit payments due to obligors can be taken.
- Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Match System: Lump sum workers’ compensation awards can be taken.
- Financial Institution Data Match: Assets of the obligor held by many banks, savings and loan institutions, and credit unions in California and the U.S. can be withheld. The Full Collection Program is responsible for responding to any inquiries concerning this type of action.
- Lottery Intercept: Lottery winnings can be taken.
- Social Security Benefits: These benefits can also be intercepted.
- Contempt: In certain situations, the Department may seek a contempt citation in court if any obligor who has the ability to pay refuses to pay child support.
Cases may also be referred to the Placer County District Attorney's Office or the United States Attorney's Office for review for criminal prosecution.