How to Collect Unpaid Spousal Support in California

After a divorce, a judge may order one partner to pay the other spousal support.  Spousal support may be for a fixed duration or may be indefinite.  If the supporting spouse fails to make support payments, California offers many ways to collect back support payments.

Garnish Wages to Collect Unpaid Spousal Support

As soon as you get a court order for spousal support, you can file for an immediate wage garnishment.  Wages can be garnished to pay for both current payments and past due amounts.  You can obtain a wage garnishment by filling out a Findings and Order After Hearing (FL-340) along with any attachments the judge required and an Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support (FL-435).

You will need to make additional copies for your ex and the Local Child Support Agency (LCSA), if they are involved in the case.  You can file these forms with the family law clerk office to start the process.  The judge who ordered the support will sign the forms (usually within two to three weeks).

Once the forms have been signed, have someone over age 18 (not you) to serve a copy on your ex and your ex’s employer.  Your ex’s employer will have 10 days to begin withholding spousal support from your ex’s paycheck and send the money to the State Discernment Unit which will then pay you.  If your ex’s employer does not withhold spousal support, you can take the employer to court.  In some extreme cases, the employer may be responsible for making the spousal support payments.

Contact Local Child Support Agency 

If you need assistance with wage garnishment or other methods of collecting unpaid spousal support, you should contact your Local Child Support Agency (LCSA).  LCSAs assist with collecting both spousal and child support You can find your LCSA here: http://www.childsup.ca.gov/home/lcsaoffices.aspx.  Your LSCA can assist you with wage garnishments.  If you do not know where your ex is currently working, the LSCA may be able to locate his/her employer.  The LSCA can also help locate your ex, if you he/she moved and you do not know where he/she currently resides.  In California LSCAs have a lot of ways to collect unpaid spousal support including:

  • An LSCA can file a lien on real property.
  • The LSCA can suspend driver’s licenses for someone with unpaid spousal support. The can also suspend professional licenses for occupations such as contractors, teachers, and lawyers.
  • If more than $2500 is owed, the State Department will not issue or renew their passport until it is paid.
  • If more than $100 is owed, or support is more than 60 days past due, the LSCA will inform the Franchise Tax Board, which can seize money from bank accounts, stock dividends, rental incomes, and personal property.
  • The LSCA can intercept a Federal Income Tax refund to pay for unpaid spousal support.
  • The LSCA can also intercept certain benefits such as unemployment, disability, and worker’s compensation payments.

In California, there are many ways to collect unpaid spousal support.  California has no statute of limitations for unpaid spousal support, meaning you could sue an ex for unpaid support plus interest years after your ex was supposed to stop paying support.

California Spousal Support
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