A notice of delinquency is not a letter any parent wants to receive. It is a legal notification that one has an overdue payment for a court-ordered child support agreement or other such financial obligation. Individuals should take notices of delinquency seriously, as failure to respond in a timely manner could result in wage garnishment or liens against property. Find out when the courts might send a notice of delinquency, as well as what to do if you receive one in California.
Do You Need a Notice of Delinquency?
If you’re having trouble getting your co-parent to pay the child support he/she legally owes you, a notice of delinquency might do the trick. The California courts give parents several ways to force the other parent to make court-ordered child and spousal support payments. While you could hold your ex-spouse in contempt of court, this can be a costly process that lands your ex in jail. Instead of going this route, first consider another legal outlet that will create an incentive for your co-parent to make the payments.
California Family Code Section 4722 states that an individual may file and serve someone else with a notice of delinquency if court-ordered child support payments are more than 30 days overdue. Any amount of child support that remains unpaid 30 days after someone receives a notice of delinquency will result in a penalty of 6% of the amount unpaid for each month that passes without payment (up to a maximum of 72% of unpaid balance due).
Upon receiving a notice of delinquency, the supporter must clear his/her debt to the supported within 30 days to avoid additional penalties. Otherwise, the amount the supporter owes could end up being much more than the original amount the court ordered. For example, say your spouse owes you $10,000 in unpaid child support. If you utilize a notice of delinquency and the spouse still doesn’t pay for an additional year, he/she would owe $17,200 for that year instead of $10,000 because of the monthly penalty.
Did You Receive a Notice of Delinquency?
If the courts issue a notice of delinquency against you, pay the amount you owe right away, if possible. This will help you avoid penalties and legal trouble. You might be able to avoid the 6% monthly penalty for being in delinquency of your child support payment if you qualify for an exemption. The monthly penalty is not something the courts will automatically impose if the person in debt gives a good reason to avoid the penalty. The support obligor must be able to prove one of the following:
- Fewer than 30 days had passed since receiving the notice of delinquency.
- Child support payments were not in arrears as of the date of the hearing.
- He/she suffered a serious illness, injury, or loss of job that impaired the ability to make the payment but made every possible effort to comply with the child support order.
- He/she is a public employee and has not received a paycheck for more than 30 days due to fiscal difficulties of the employer.
- It would not be just to impose a penalty.
In basic terms, if you have the power to make the payment but simply did not, you will likely receive the 6% penalty per month until you pay off the balance you owe. Otherwise, you may qualify for an exemption from the monthly penalty. If unemployment or another problem will impact your ability to make child support payments for the long term, you can petition the courts to alter your child support agreement to reflect your loss of employment. Contact a family law attorney for assistance with your case.