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Must you still pay child support if your ex keeps the child away?

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2024 | Child Support |

Child support is a sensitive topic and can be difficult to navigate when it also involves issues of custody and access. A well-meaning parent might consider withholding support payments when the other parent is preventing access to the child or not following a custody agreement.

Is such a course permissible under California law?

Child support and custody arrangements

The California Department of Child Support Services found in its 2019 semi-annual report that over 91% of its cases require establishing support orders. At the same time, about 59% of cases are in arrears, meaning that a parent is not covering payments for some reason.

In California, child support and custody are distinct arrangements. This means that even if a parent is not getting access to their child, they must still pay child support if a court order is in place. Courts calculate child support payments by the income of both parents and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. Even if one parent has little to no access to the child, they might still have to pay child support.

Options for parents without appropriate access

If one parent is refusing the other visits with their child, the denied parent has legal options to try and regain access. The first step is to try and work out a solution with the other parent, possibly with a mediator’s help.

If this is not successful, the parent can file a motion with the court to enforce visitation rights. The court may order the other parent to allow visitation or even modify the custody arrangement if it is not in the child’s best interests.

Modifying child support orders

A parent may be able to modify a child support order due to a change in circumstances, such as a loss of income or a change in the custody arrangement. However, a parent can only make child support modifications through the court system. Simply stopping payments or reducing them without a court order can result in legal consequences.

Penalties for nonpayment of child support

If a parent fails to pay court-ordered child support, there can be serious consequences. These can include wage garnishment, seizure of tax refunds, suspension of driver’s licenses and even jail time in extreme cases. Parents should understand that child support is a legal obligation, and failure to pay usually incurs penalties.

Child support and custody arrangements are complex issues, and it can be hard to know what to do if one loses access to a child. However, parents should understand that child support is a legal obligation that one cannot simply discard, so other resolutions are more fitting.


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