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Is it Ever too Late to Collect Child Support? A New Case From San Diego, CA Confirms that the Answer is “No”

Mother and Father divorced in the 1970s. They had a 3-year-old daughter at the time. The Court ordered Father to pay $160/month for child support. Shortly thereafter, Father moved to Canada, and never paid any support, leaving Mother to raise their daughter alone.

Nearly 50 years later, Mother thought it was ridiculous that he had escaped financial responsibility to their family and began researching child support laws. She discovered that in California, there is no statute of limitation to collect past-due child support, so she moved forward with her claim.

50 Year Seems Like a Long Time, How is it Possible There was no Statute of Limitations?

Prior to 1993, former California Civil Code section 4833 controlled a statute of limitations surrounding support orders. According to the former code, a judgment for child or family support could be enforced by writ of execution without prior court approval until 5 years after child reached majority, and thereafter only as to amounts not more than 10 years overdue. Beyond these time frames, the Court had discretion to determine whether to allow enforcement of judgment. In making determination, the Court was required to consider lack of diligence in pursuing enforcement for more than these specified periods.

In 1992, the California legislature amended the code section to allow spousal and family support orders to be enforceable in perpetuity until paid. The Court of Appeals later determined that the changes to the code section apply retroactively to pre-1993 orders. Thus, all child support orders remain enforceable in perpetuity until paid. In other words, there is no statute of limitations with respect to enforcing a child support order (regardless of the date of the order).

How Much Does Father owe After 50 Years?

Had Father paid support on time, he would have paid Mother child support totaling approximately $30,000 over the years. Since he did not pay, however, interest accrues at the rate of 10% per year on the principal amount of a money judgment that is unsatisfied. Now, Father owes closer to $170,000 in unpaid child support and interest.

In a private hearing, the parties reached a settlement agreement of $150,000.

Mother told reporters that throughout the years she was always “panicked” about having enough money to support her daughter. And now she warns all parents not paying child support that they should be panicked too!

The Court does not take lightly unpaid child support because child support orders are made for the best interest of the child, hence the hard 10% interest penalty. Here at Mello & Pickering, LLP we can help develop a strong case for you as we have extensive experience in both defending against and seeking arrears for unpaid child support. With our 35+ years combined experience we can help you to ensure that you and your child’s best interests are protected.

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