How is child support enforced in the state of California?

When parents in California go into arrears on their child support, there are a number of enforcement options, which may be to collect what they owe.

In order to ensure that both parents fulfil their financial responsibilities to their children, family law courts in Southern California, and throughout the state, frequently order child support awards. In the majority of cases, people follow through with these court-ordered obligations. However, sometimes parents may fail, or refuse, to pay. In such situations, there are a number of enforcement options available to collect owed child support.

Income intercepts

According to the County of San Diego’s Department of Child Support Services, income intercepts are one of the options available for collecting back child support in the state. The DCSS is able to seize parents’ state and federal income tax refunds and apply those funds to their child support arrears. Additionally, the state agency can intercept up to 25 percent of people’s unemployment, worker’s compensation awards, state disability insurance and Social Security Disability Insurance payments in order to pay their child support obligations.

License suspensions

License suspensions are another common enforcement option for child support collection in the state. The Judicial Council of California points out that local child support agencies may suspend or withhold any permanent, state-issued license. This includes parents’ driver’s licenses. In addition, people who fall behind on their child support payments may have their recreational licenses, including those for hunting and fishing, and their professional licenses, such as medical, cosmetologist and contractor’s licenses, suspended or withheld.


When abstract of support judgments are recorded in the state of California, liens are generally placed against any properties owned by the noncustodial parents. This applies to both in state, and out of state, properties. While such liens are in place, people may face obstacles when trying to sell or transfer their properties. If the property is sold, any past due child support may be paid out of the sale’s proceeds.

Credit reporting

Credit reporting is also used as an enforcement option in California. According to the Judicial Council of California, missed child support payments, as well as those that are made, are reported to the major credit reporting agencies. Consequently, parents’ credit ratings may be adversely affected if they fall behind, or choose not to pay, on their child support. This could impact their ability to receive lines of credit, purchase homes and even get hired for certain jobs.

Consulting with an attorney

When California parents go into arrears on their child support, the effects may be far reaching. Noncustodial parents face a range of enforcement options, which may cause them personal and professional issues. Custodial parents, on the other hand, may struggle to provide for their children without the additional support. Therefore, people who are struggling to make their child support payments, or who are owed back support, may benefit from working with an attorney. A lawyer may help them understand their rights and options, as well as guide them through the legal process.