Collecting Child Support – Contempt

By | January 3, 2012

Collecting your Orange County child support payment can be a monthly ordeal in these harsh economic times. Many people who have a support obligation are out of work and the unemployment check just doesn’t stretch very far. Some people do not have the ability to pay support, but for those who do have the ability and don’t pay, there should be no sympathy. While I personally find using contempt to enforce a child support judgment to be a heavy handed approach to collection, I admit in some circumstances it might be used effectively to punish the non-compliant support debtor. I consider it a punishment and not necessarily an effective way to collect support because one of the possible consequences of being found in contempt of an order is to be put in jail for a short period of time for each “count” of contempt the person is found guilty of committing. So when choosing between a working debtor who brings home money that I can find and collect versus one who is sitting in jail and not working, I generally prefer the working debtor because I have a better chance of getting money out of him, which is the whole point of child support collection. But the threat of sending someone to jail (assuming you can prove up some or all of the counts of contempt) can provide leverage in negotiations. Some people would do a lot to avoid going to jail, and simply paying back support payments that they should have paid already may seem a small price to avoid the jail time. So in that sense, contempt can be a tool for child support enforcement or spousal support enforcement.