A parent in California who either needs to collect child support or pay it could run into problems as the years go by. When child support goes unpaid, a parent could approach a state agency and request an enforcement action. On the other side of the coin, a parent experiencing financial difficulty, like unemployment, could take steps to limit falling behind on payments by petitioning a court to modify the amount of support owed.

When a parent reports unpaid child support to the state’s enforcement office, the agency will contact the noncustodial parent. Sometimes this requires finding the person by searching databases from the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Federal Parent Locator Service. After the agency finds the person, enforcement actions to collect child support arrearages could include garnishing wages or seizing funds from a bank account. If the person’s current income cannot be determined, the agency will estimate future payments based on previous work histories.

Unemployment sometimes represents the reason a person falls behind on support for children. Instead of letting the problem fester while the debt piles up, a person could approach a court as soon as possible to adjust child support because of job loss. Being upfront with a family court about financial problems could spare someone the downward spiral of forcing a custodial parent to take enforcement actions.

Courts calculate child support amounts based on parental income and living expenses for children. An attorney might be able to provide a person with an individual evaluation of how the law could determine child support payments. Legal representation may aid a person who needs to modify a support agreement or address unpaid amounts. Private negotiations led by an attorney with the other parent or a petition to a family court might resolve problems with payment or collection.