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Using a wage assignment to collect child support

One of the most vexing problems for divorcing Californians is ensuring the payment of child support by the non-custodial spouse. Often, the custodial parent relies on the child support payments to pay a substantial portion of the child's expenses and an approved percentage of household expenses. If the child support payments do not arrive on time, or if they are less than the full amount, the custodial parent may be unable to buy food or pay essential household expenses or provide food for the family. Fortunately, California law provides a collection mechanisms that can often be effective in ensuring the timely and complete payment of child support.

In every California divorce involving minor children and in which the parents were unable to agree on the amount of child support, the court will issue an order awarding sole custody to one parent and fixing the amount of child support. The order will also direct the non-custodial parent to make payments on or before a specified day each month. If a local child support agency is involved in the case, the LCSA will automatically prepare and serve the wage assignment on the employer. If no LCSA is involved, the custodial parent can prepare and serve a notice of wage assignment on all of the non-custodial parent's employers.

The wage assignment is issued over the seal of the court and directs the employer to withhold a specified amount from every paycheck of the parent who is required to pay support. The assignment form will also tell the employer where to send the withheld money. If an LCSA has prepared the form, the payments are usually sent to the agency.

State law provides several remedies if the employer fails to withhold and pay over the prescribed amount and if the non-custodial parent otherwise fails or refuses to make timely support payments. Most of these remedies require a court appearance and thus require the assistance of an attorney. A knowledge family lawyer can provide valuable advice on the legal mechanisms for compelling and collecting child support payments.

Source: California Judicial Branch, "Collecting a Child Support Order," accessed on April 3, 2017

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