Written by attorney Shamoon Aziz Budhwani

Is Orange County Enforcing Back Child Support Arrearages and what can be done about it?

In a clear attempt to clamp down on the mushrooming amount of unpaid child support many States and Counties are strictly enforcing individuals who owe back child support. Parents who become seriously delinquent find that the local District Attorney comes looking for them threatening criminal charges and jail time. This is tantamount to adding insult to injury because most of us have no control over the historically debilitating national economy and severe shortage of jobs.

The Orange County District Attorney is not typically pursuing the typical parent who is delinquent, though they have the power to do so. In fact it seems that currently, the Orange County Department of Child Support Services is not even pursuing criminal contempt proceedings against those who violate child support orders until the support is delinguent for six months. This of course can change at any time. (Criminal contempt proceedings are serious violations and may result in a criminal recod and jail time. One should not avoid paying support.)

Thats not to say that violators are without penalty. California has passed laws that allow for interest and fees to be added to delinquent child support accounts. In certain situations the interest and penalties can substantially surpass the principal balance owed.

Given the state of the economy, especially here in Orange County County, and the inability of many to find work, many delinquent parents have lost all hope that they will ever get caught-up on their child delinquent support payments. However, options are available.

The most important being the ability of a parent who is suffering financial hardship to modify the child support owed. This option does not waive the past support amount owed but if approved by a court it prevents the matter from getting worse. Thus providing the delinquent parent with the fiancinal means to correct the delinquency.

Under current law, despite the existance of a financial hardship (such as the loss of a job) the paying parent continues to be responsible for the support unless they file a motion (called an Order to Show Cause) to change the support amount. If the court modifies it they can only make a change retroactive to the date of the filing of the motion. It is recommended that a parent who can no longer make the court ordered payment due to changed financial circumstances contact a local attorney to determine if they qualify to modify the child support amount (the same can be done for spousal support as well).

Ignoring the support will only make matters worse.

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