California family court makes the well-being of children a top priority in all of its decisions, including child support orders for non-custodial parents. Both parents must provide for their children and a divorce doesn’t change that. The non-custodial parent must contribute toward the costs of housing, food, clothing, medical care, and other expenses involved in raising children.

When the paying parent falls into arrears on their child support payments, the court may place a lien on any property owned by the parent who has failed to make their payments.

Enforcement Actions in California Child Support Cases

An order for child support is an enforceable court order. Payments made are recorded after the order is in place and the scheduled payments begin. When a paying parent fails to make payments, several enforcement measures may come into play, including liens placed on real property. Other enforcement measures include:

  • Placing an income withholding order with an employer
  • Offsetting tax returns from the IRS and directing the funds into the child support account
  • Intercepting lottery winnings or gambling winnings
  • Revocation of passport
  • Suspending a driver’s license
  • Revocation of commercial and occupational licenses
  • Reporting the arrears to a credit reporting agency
  • Criminal prosecution

It’s important for paying parents to always make their child support payments. If a dramatic ongoing and substantial change in circumstances occurs, the paying parent must still keep up their support payments while filing a petition for a modification of the child support order. If you’ve been late on your payments, a Los Angeles child support attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations under California’s Department of Child Support Services.

Understanding Property Liens

A lien on a property is the court’s way of putting the public on notice that the property owner owes a significant sum in child support arrears. The lien on the property is typically for the full amount owed. The property owner cannot sell or remortgage the property without the amount of the lien diverting to the child support account. If the value of the property doesn’t meet the full amount owed, the Department of Child Support Services may settle for a lesser amount in order to direct some funds into the child support account for the receiving parent. It’s important to note that this type of arrangement does not forgive the remaining amount the paying parent owes.

If a remortgage fully satisfies the lien amount, the court removes the lien from the property. If the paying parent is able to make the back payments owed, it can take several weeks to remove the lien from the property.

If a lien on a property or other enforcement measures makes it more difficult for a paying parent to make up the back child support payments, a lawyer can help the payor make that claim before the judge.

What Property Do the Courts Consider “Real Property” for Lien-Placement?

Once the Department of Child Support Services places a lien on a property, the owner cannot transfer the property until they satisfy the lien. When a child support order isn’t met, the courts may place a lien on the following properties:

  • Any real estate property owned by the paying parent including their home
  • Land or lots owned
  • Rental properties
  • Structures on a property
  • Equipment on a property
  • Any crops growing on the land
  • All interests in the land

The court places the lien on the property by filing with the country recorder in the country where the property is located. A lien remains on the property until the paying parent makes up the arrears or until the receiving parent agrees to remove the lien.

A family attorney can help you to understand your rights and obligations when it comes to child support orders and property liens.