A parent's failure or refusal to pay court-ordered support is considered to be so serious, that California law has designed a myriad of remedies and punishments available to ensure compliance with support orders. A support order is considered to be a Judgment and can be collected on as if it were a Judgment. For each month a support order is en effect, that is considered to be a separate and independent Judgment. Keeping that principle in mind, here are a few effective ways to ensure compliance with support orders:
- Contempt: Filing and prosecuting an Order to Show Cause re Contempt is simple, but it is not easy. If you know how to fill out the correct forms, accumulate and introduce the right evidence, and understand the elements which need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you will have a decent chance of having a delinquent obligor thrown in jail for up to five days and fined $1000.00 per count (month). You can also obtain an order that the obligor spouse is to pay attorneys' fees and costs as additional compensation for the trouble of having to go this route. Jail time can be an effective deterrent to future violations.
- Government Enforcement: This is my personal favorite because it is so effective. When you ask the Department of Child Support Services to collect on your support order, they will do so with all legal means available. This includes bank levies, interception of tax refunds, suspension of drivers' licenses, suspension of professional licenses and in extreme cases, the filing of criminal charges. Additionally, if the obligor is over $5000.00 in arrears, DCSS can notify the US State Department which will suspend his/her passport. Another great advantage of using the state to enforce the order is that the state will keep track of the arrears and automatically calculate the interest due as well, which is 10% per annum - Gee, 10% is not a bad investment.
- Abstract of Support Judgment: No one likes to have a Judgment on his or her credit report. If you record an Abstract of Support Judgment with your local county recorder, the three major credit bureaus will pick this up. The abstract acts as a lien. Before he/she can sell any real property, the arrears must be paid from escrow.
- Private Collections: If the balance is high enough, you can hire an attorney to pursue collection of these amounts. Methods used can include bank levies, seizure of real or personal property (vehicle repossession), and negotiation of a lower lump sum payment if the parties agree. This can work if the obligor simply had some bad financial luck and the parties agree to turn over a new leaf and the vast majority of the debt owed is interest.