How to Avoid Contempt Charges When You Cannot Pay Your Child Support


Posted over 6 years ago. Applies to California, 23 helpful votes



Speak to a DCSS Representative

Remember, the goal of The Department of Child Support Services is not to punish you. Their job is to look out for the welfare of your children. If you lose your job, you cannot make your payments, or your circumstances change in any way, the first thing you should do is talk to DCSS. If you keep them informed of what is going on, they may be willing to work with you.


File for a Modification of Your Child Support Order

The court can modify the monthly payment of your child support order if there has been a change in circumstances. For example, if you lose your job and can no longer afford your monthly payment, the court can review your situation and amend its order accordingly, but only if you ask for a modification. Your local Family Court Services office should be able to assist you in filling out the paperwork.


Keep a Journal of your Job Searches

While the court recognizes that being unemployed makes it difficult, if not impossible to pay child support, it also recognizes that losing your job does not excuse you from taking financial responsibility for your children. This is why the court will often order a parent to "seek work" if they are unemployed. If you have a "seek work" order, or you lose your job, you should keep a detailed journal of your job searches. Take note of the places where you apply, the date, the person you spoke with, how you applied (i.e. did you fill out an application, send a resume, call the manager, etc.), and what the response was. The journal can be used as evidence to show that you are trying to obey the court's order, and that your failure to pay is not willful. Not only can this help avoid facing charges, but it can also aid in your defense if you are charged.


Seek the Advice of an Attorney

If you find yourself facing contempt charges for failure to pay court ordered child support, you should seek the advice of an attorney. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you, the possible repercussions under the law, help negotiate a possible settlement agreement, and can serve as your advocate in court. Court appointed attorneys are available for child support contempt matters.

Additional Resources

Jackson & Tuerck ~ (530) 283-0406 ~ PO Box 148, Quincy, CA 95971

CA Dept. of Child Support Services

Family Court Services

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