Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP
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Sacramento, California

Over 125 Years Of Combined Experience

Is it ever okay to not pay child support?

The short answer to the question posed in this headline is: no. Failing to pay child support is a serious problem. It can lead to a range of severe penalties, from license suspension and passport denial to fines and possible jail time. California laws require parents to comply with child support orders on time and in full.

That being said, many people wrongfully believe they can stop paying support under certain circumstances.

  • Job loss - If you lose your job, you may think there is no way you will have to pay support. After all, you are not earning money and there is no paycheck from which an employer can withhold income. However, job loss does not mean you can stop paying child support.
  • Other parent denying access to child - If the other parent is not allowing you to see your child, you should continue to make support payments fully and on time. By not paying child support, you are not just punishing the other parent, you are also punishing your child that is dependent on these payments.
  • Incarceration - Going to jail will not terminate a parent's support obligations (unless a parent is incarcerated more than 90 days). The paying parent must find ways to keep up with payments or risk additional consequences.
  • Money is tight - There are months when it is harder to pay bills. And while it may seem like periodic delinquency is okay - especially if you intend to get back on track - it can still cause serious problems. Prioritizing support payments can ensure ongoing compliance.

In each of these situations, parents must still comply with court support orders. However, these situations can provide the basis for a support modification request. A request for review or modification leads to examination of the current support order by the court.

Generally speaking, child support obligations terminate if a child passes away, if the child gets married, or if the child turns 18, except when the child is still a full-time high school student and lives with a parent. In that situation, child support terminates when the child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first. Even in these situations, though, it is wise to confirm the termination of a support order. This ensures you do not stop paying prematurely or wind up paying more than you owe.

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