If you have to pay child support, you have an order from a court to do so. As with any court order, you have a legal obligation to follow it or face punishments.

The Judicial Branch of California explains you could potentially face a contempt of court charge if you do not pay your child support. However, this is usually not the first step a court takes.

Means and motive

The court will look into your situation before issuing a contempt of court ruling. Generally, the judge will consider whether you have the means to pay the support and if your motive is simply to ignore the order. If the judge finds you are able to pay your support without issue and have made a conscious decision to not do it, then it is highly likely the judge will order you in contempt of court.

The reason is you are willingly choosing to not abide by a court order. Essentially, you are ignoring the judge’s order, which never goes over well with the court.

Other situations

If, however, you have financial issues affecting your ability to pay, the court will usually try to take other actions because a contempt of court order could land you in jail. Other attempts to collect, including wage garnishment or driver’s license revocation, usually occur before a contempt of court order.

The first step is usually to try to work through the situation and uncover the issues affecting your ability to pay. Punishment is usually the last step and only if you refuse to cooperate. After all, if you are sitting in jail or do not have a valid driver’s license, it will impact your ability to pay and could make the situation worse.