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Child Support Enforcement in California

Failure to pay child support can have very serious consequences. If a parent is able to pay and are simply purposely not paying it, they can be found to be in contempt of court. This is a serious offense and may involve jail time. Failure to pay child support can also negatively affect a person's credit score and can cause liens to be placed on their property. Deciding not to pay child support is almost never the way to go. If a parent's circumstances have changed or there are reasons affecting their ability to pay, it is typically wise to apply to the court to modify your support order. Failing to pay the order altogether is a failure to follow the order of the court and, as mentioned, will result in serious consequences which can affect one's criminal record.

Enforcing Support Orders in California

To enforce the order or collect on owed child support, the person owed the money needs to take a copy of the support order to a local child support agency and the steps above can be taken in order to enforce it. A criminal charge for contempt of court is usually a last resort option that is used if all other enforcement mechanisms have failed to get the owed child support paid to the parent who is owed it. A local attorney specializing in family law may also be able to answer more questions about support enforcement and collection matters.

Child Support: Moving Out-of-State

If one of the parents has moved out-of-state from California, it is still possible to enforce a child support order. One parent cannot simply move out of state in order to avoid having to pay child support. Federal law employs the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act which has been adopted in all 50 states. Under this law, if a parent has moved out of the state where a child support order was first entered, no other state can change the order if either of the parties or the child for whom the support was meant to benefit still lives in that state.

For example, if a child support order was entered in California and the father moved to Arizona and then needed to make a change to the order, he would have to do that in California, not in Arizona. He is still liable for the amount of support ordered by the California court, no matter if he lives in Arizona or elsewhere.

Unpaid Child Support Resources

If the non-custodial parent fails to pay child support, the receiving parent can enlist the help of their local child support agency. They have many resources that can help locate the non-custodial parent and collect the amount owed for child support.

Below you will find relevant information about California's local support agencies and the penalties to the non-custodial parent.


California Department of Child Support Services

California- Local Child Support Agency Offices



  • Frozen bank accounts
  • Suspension of driver licenses
  • Suspension of professional licenses
  • Reporting to credit bureaus, thus affecting their credit score
  • Interception of tax refunds, workers compensation awards, or part of disability benefits to pay for child support.
  • If the non-custodial parent owes more than $2,500 in child support, their passport is denied until the balance comes current.
  • Child support enforcement in California includes criminal sanctions and potential wage garnishment.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

California Codes and Legal Research Options

Additional Resources

If you have additional questions about California's child support laws, click on the following links:

Questions About Child Support Enforcement in California? Ask an Attorney

Child support laws are designed to help foster the best child-rearing environment possible. However, the laws are complex and enforcement is often difficult. If you're experiencing issues with child support enforcement, now is the time to speak with a skilled child support attorney in California to discuss your case.

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