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If you owe child support, it's known as back child support, and it's important to understand how this works from a legal perspective. Whether you wanted to pay or not, and regardless of whether or not you think the payments are fair, you do owe this money. Below are a few key facts to remember:

-- When money is owed, the government looks at it just like a debt. Even though you did not borrow any money, you still owe it as if you had.

-- You can pay this money off in full if you are able. For example, you may have gotten behind while you were unemployed, but you may have then gotten a job and inherited money. You can just write one check to get caught back up.

-- The state of owing money is called being in arrears.

-- Interest and other fees may apply. This means that not paying for a time could lead you to pay more overall when you get caught up.

-- Your wages could be garnished. When you really start to fall behind, wage garnishment is one of the most powerful tools the government has to force you to pay. You have no say in this since the money is taken from your paycheck before you see it.

-- You could lose other abilities. For example, the government will sometimes refuse to give passports to those who owe too much, or a driver's license could be suspended.

As you can see, child support payments are quite serious, so it's crucial to know what's expected of you and how the legal process works in California, as this is usually handled on the state level.

Source: Money Crashers, "How Back Child Support Works – Paying or Collecting," Miranda Marquit, accessed June 17, 2016

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