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License Suspensions for Past-Due Child Support in California

Child support is a common issue that arises between parents in paternity, legal separation, or dissolution of marriage matter. Base child support is the amount of money a court orders a parent to pay, each month, and is designed to ensure that a child’s needs are consistently met regardless of which parent is caring for the child at any given time.

In addition to base monthly support payments, parents are often required to share equally uncovered medical/dental expenses, childcare, and extracurricular costs for the children.

However, child support is most effective and beneficial for a child if it is consistently paid each month. In order to ensure that parents pay child support obligations on time, there are serious consequences that can occur if you have delinquent child support payments. These consequences can include the following: 

  • Suspension of a driver’s license 

  • Suspension of a passport

  • Revocation of professional, business, or recreational licenses

  • Liens on real property 

  • Levying of bank accounts

  • Interception of tax refunds or lottery winnings

  • Garnishment of wages


How are child support payments calculated? 

Family Code Section 4050 states that, in any child support proceeding, the amount of support must always be calculated in accordance with the “statewide uniform child support guideline”. Legal professionals often refer to child support as being calculated as “guideline” child support. 

In California, guideline child support is calculated using a mathematical formula that accounts for the following: (1) the parents’ total monthly net disposable income and (2) the percentage of timeshare each parent spends with the child.

To calculate a parent’s net disposable income, the court considers a parent’s monthly income, after state and federal taxes are paid accounting for all appropriate tax deductions.  In addition, any mandatory payroll deductions are included in the calculation. These deductions could include mandatory union dues and mandatory retirement. 

Courts now use an automated program to calculate guideline child support based on the formula discussed above. Typically, courts will input values for each parent’s income, deductions, and timeshare percentage.

Then, the automated system will instantly calculate guideline support using the state-mandated mathematical formula. To ensure that guideline child support is calculated accurately, each parent should provide proof of all their income and any    deductions they receive. 

Once a court calculates a guideline child support amount, the court will order that one parent, typically the noncustodial parent, pay that amount to the custodial parent each month.


How Can a Driver’s License be Suspended? 

Driver’s licenses are a daily necessity for most people since a driver’s license allows a person the freedom to travel with ease throughout their daily life without having to rely on public transportation. If a child support payor fails to make a child support payment, then they could be at risk of their driver’s license being suspended. 

Family Code Section 17520 states that if a child support payor is more than 30 days past due, a notification will be sent to several California licensing agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), that the child support payor appears on a list of delinquent payors, also known as the “Absent Parent Master File Certified List.”

Next, the child support payor will receive a notice in the mail of the delinquency and will be given 150 days to pay the child support obligation. If the child support payor does not remedy the delinquent payment, then their driver’s license will be suspended. The child support payor will not be eligible to receive a valid driver’s license, or other type of license mentioned below, until they pay the child support obligation. 

If you have overdue child support payments, and your driver’s license has been suspended, you will likely face a long and difficult process for reissuance of a valid license. 

What Other Licenses Can be Suspended if Child Support is Not Paid?

As mentioned above, Family Code Section 1752 not only applies to the suspension of driver’s licenses but also applies to the suspension of various licenses including: 

  • Business licenses to form entities such as partnerships and corporations. 

  • Occupational licenses for the business of selling vehicles such as automobiles, motorcycles, commercial vehicles, trailers, and recreational vehicles. 

  • Professional licenses for professionals such as cosmetologists, doctors, nurses, teachers, contractors, and lawyers.

  • Recreational licenses for activities such as fishing or hunting.


It is very important to remain current on your monthly child support payments so that you can avoid suspension of your driver's license, or any other license you may possess or need, being suspended. 

What Steps You Can Take if You Can’t Afford to Pay Child Support? 

If you find yourself unable to afford your child support payments, it is important that you act quickly so that you do not incur child support arrears and risk ramifications like your driver’s license being suspended. 

If you can no longer afford to pay child support, you can file a Request for Order to modify your current child support obligation. Guideline child support orders are modifiable upon a change of circumstance.

For example, if you lost your job and no longer received an income, then you may not be able to afford your child support. This type of event would warrant a change in circumstances that would be appropriate for a child support modification.

Other changes of circumstances that would warrant a modification of child support include the following: (1) having a child from another relationship, (2) being incarcerated, (3) a change in income for the other parent, or (4) circumstances that allow you to spend significantly more time with your children.

If any of these circumstances have affected your ability to pay support, filing a Request for Order to modify your support obligation would allow you to plead your case to the court for a modified child support order.


Additionally, if you find yourself in a change of circumstances that would warrant child support modification, you have the option of retaining a family law attorney to assist you and further advise you of how to best proceed. A family law attorney can run updated guideline child support calculations, based on your change of circumstances, and assist you with drafting the necessary paperwork to file for a Request for Order as mentioned above.

Alternatively, a family law attorney can meet and confer with the other parent or opposing counsel to see if both parties can reach an agreement on a child support modification. If you and the other parent reach an agreement, you both can sign and submit a Stipulation and Order for a child support modification to the court. A Stipulation and Order would then become an effective court order without either party having to attend a formal hearing. 

Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can lend further clarity and advise you about how to best proceed if you need a child support modification. If you are a parent who is dealing with a child support payment matter, we invite you to contact our San Diego family law firm for professional legal assistance. Contact us today for the help you need!

Next:If I Get Joint Custody, Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support?

MOFU Child Support Guide