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Can I sue a parent thru small claims court for owing me back child support plus interest since he refuses to pay x12mos?

San Diego, CA |

For the past year I've been LEGALLY caring for my relative's children, but haven't received child support due to the very slow pace of family court. Can I sue the parent who continues to receive the support thru small claims court since they "move faster with cases". I'm unemployed and very worried since I have other financial obligations. CPS awarded the kids to me since I'm the closest relative in CA. Other parent is abroad & unable to send support to me directly because the order hasn't been modified and was threatened he will be sued for "contempt of court" if he pays me the support instead. I feel lost, I want the best for the kids but running out of resources & I feel small claims might be able to help me so I can at least collect to pay debt & other bills accumulated over the year.

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Attorney answers 2


If there is an existing order for child support through the Family Court and the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), the case will not be heard in small claims. The proper court to enforce the order is the Family Court. You can bring a contempt OSC, but they can be procedural headaches. DCSS can do certain things to enforce the order (suspend driver's licenses, wage garnishments, bank levies, etc.). I would communicate with your case manager at DCSS is you haven't already. You can obtain private counsel if you wish, but DCSS is fairly effective in extracting support once they get a lead on where the money is.

Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on. Each state has different laws, and each situation is fact specific. Without an in depth consultation and analysis of all relevant facts and evidence, it is impossible to fully evaluate a legal problem. This answer is not intended to, and does not, create an attorney-client relationship.


If there's an order to pay you money, there's nothing to go to small claims court about; going to Small Claims, if you could do it (and you can't) would simply get you ANOTHER order that you be paid, but doesn't get you any farther in enforcing. Speak to Child Support Services.