How do I collect unpaid or back child support in San Diego?

February 23, 2012

How do I collect unpaid or back child support in San Diego?

Times are tough already between the economy and normal monthly expenses stacking up. The last thing a custodial parent needs is to worry about obtaining and collecting child support. Attorneys in the San Diego area can help you obtain and collect unpaid or back child support that is owed to you.

Why do I need a Child Support Order?

If you are the primary custodial parent, you have a right to child support to help with your monthly expenses. The non-custodial parent is just as responsible for providing for the child(ren) as you are. Having an oral agreement for child support with the non-custodial parent is not good enough. You need to obtain an order from the court for the child support agreement to be enforceable. Without a court order the non-custodial parent has no legal obligation to pay child support to you even if you have agreed to terms for child support payments. If the co-parent stops paying the amount of child support you informally agreed to, then you will have little recourse if he or she stops making payments and you will not be able to collect arrears for the months they did not pay or only partially paid.

How do I file for child support?

Obtaining a court order is easier than it sounds and the state's enforcement tools (discussed below) often provide incentive for the non-custodial parent to pay child support.

If you were not married to the child's parent at the time the child was conceived, you will have to first file a Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship ("Petition") to establish paternity. You will need to provide your attorney, and the court, whatever information you have about the other parent's whereabouts and your relationship with that person. The Petition also allows the court to make child support orders once paternity is established.

If you were married when the child was born, paternity is presumed unless the other parent challenges paternity. However, you will have to file an Order to Show Cause to obtain child support. The court will determine a guideline amount based on both parent's income, timeshare with the children, and various other factors.

What if the other parent doesn't have a job?

If the parent who is responsible for paying child support does not have a job, the court can order him or her to make a certain number of job contacts per week to prove to the court that they are actively looking for work. The court may also impute income to either parent, even if that parent is unemployed, only employed part-time, a stay at home parent, recently quit his or her job, or is just not working up to his or her full potential.

What if I have a Child Support Order, but the other parent is not making payments?

Unpaid child support is one of the largest debts in this country today. According to the Association for Enforcement of Child Support, over 30 million children in the U.S today are owed unpaid child support by a parent. Once the non-paying parent gets behind on child support, he or she now owes arrears in addition to their ongoing monthly child support. At this point, many parents give up and don't think there is anything they can do to make the other parent pay up. However, there are ways to enforce the child support order from the court.

To determine the amount of arrears owed and have the court set a monthly payment for those arrears, you need to file an Order to Show Cause to set arrears. You need to keep track of all missed, partial or late payments in a log to provide to your attorney and the court. If the other parent has since moved out of the state, try to find out where the other parent is so the court can enforce the order against them. A child support order in one state does not become void if they move to another state. States often work together to enforce the order of one state in the state where the other parent now resides.

An attorney may request or work with the Department of Child Support Services, to request the court do any of the following to a parent who is behind or not paying currently on their child support:

• Order a monthly arrears payment in addition to the monthly child support payment
• Garnishing his or her wages
• Suspend his or her driver's or professional license
• Refuse to allow the parent to obtain a legal passport
• Intercept his or her unemployment compensation
• Offset federal and/or state income tax refunds
• Find the non-paying parent in contempt of court, which may even result in jail time

Once, for example, a license is suspended or passport refused, the parent who owes the child support will have to go to court to ask for their license back or permission to obtain a passport.

Can I refuse to allow the non-paying party to see the child(ren) until he or she starts paying child support?

NO! Keep in mind child support is completely separate from custody and visitation. In the eyes of the law, the parent who owes back child support payments still has the right to visit with the child. Therefore, any parent who is in distress over missing child support payments should take the steps outlined above instead of withholding visitations from the non-paying parent. Refusing to allow your child to visit with the other parent because he or she has unpaid child support will jeopardize your good standing with the court and you could even lose time with your child(ren).

Contact a Certified Family Law Specialist today to fight for your rights. The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford are dedicated to getting you results. Call (858) 793-8884 to schedule a consultation.