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Child support in California: Frequently asked questions

On Behalf of | Apr 27, 2018 | Child Support |

Whether you’re on the paying end or the receiving end, it’s important to know how the process of collecting and disbursing child support payments works in California.

Many parents have questions about child support. Finding accurate information about how California handles child support can help ensure you comply with the law.

1. When does the child support start?

The judge hearing your case will decide when the child support will start. Sometimes the judge will order retroactive payments. The non-custodial parent may have to pay support from back to the time you separated or to whenever the petition was filed.

If you’re paying support informally while waiting for an order from the court, you can avoid having to pay double by keeping proof of each payment. Don’t just write a check. Note that it is child support for a specific period of time or get a receipt.

2. How is child support collected?

Normally, the court orders the garnishment of the paying parent’s wages. However, you can avoid going through that process and arrange for direct payments (which may be preferable to both parties for the sake of their privacy) as long as the child support enforcement agency isn’t involved in the case.

If this is something that you want to do, you need to ask the court to stay the garnishment order so that you and the child’s other parent can work out the method of payment yourselves.

If the local agency is involved, a stay is still possible, but only with the agency’s consent.

3. What happens if you don’t pay child support?

It depends a lot on the reason you aren’t paying your court-ordered support. If you lost your job due to no fault of your own and can’t find work, the court will likely entertain a request to modify the order until you’re back on your feet.

On the other hand, if you’re hiding your income by working off the books, refusing to work because you’re angry about having to pay child support or simply withholding the payments altogether, the court can impose fines and jail time.

Keep in mind that child support is never designed to punish one parent and enrich the other. The court is only interested in trying to make the situation fair for the child involved in the sit

Source:, “Collecting a Child Support Order,” accessed April 27, 2018


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