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California: Enforcement of Orders
(provided by Aaron Dishon, Esq.)

Many remedies are available to enforce court orders, both with respect to custody, as well as with respect to child and spousal support orders. Some of the most common of these remedies include:

1. Contempt: A party subject to a valid order who with knowledge of the order and the ability to comply with the order, fails to comply with the terms of the order, is subject to contempt charges. Usually, contempt is quasi-criminal in nature, and the burden of proof of the moving party is typically "beyond a reasonable doubt." A party may be found in contempt for many violations, including failing to abide by custody orders, failure to pay support, and other violations. If the citee is found guilty, they are subject to jail time as well as being fined.

2. Wage Assignment Order: Under California Law, the court is required to issue an earnings assignment for all support orders: An order requiring the payor spouse's employer to directly pay the support to the recipient of child, family or spousal support is now mandatory whenever the court makes or modifies a support order. [Ca Fam Sec.5230(a)]. The only exception to this rule is where the parties agree otherwise. This tool can be particularly powerful where a party has failed to make regular payments, as the employer is required to directly pay the recipient the support out of the payor's pay check.

3. Writ of Execution: Utilizing this procedure, a party owed support or other funds may petition the court for an order that assets be seized and sold to satisfy the obligation. This procedure also can be used against bank and deposit accounts to get obtain large sums of money that are past-due.

4. Motion for Determination of Arrearages: Where an individual owes or disputes a significant amount of support, either party may petition the court for a hearing to determine exactly how much support is owed. This calculation should include legal interest at the rate of 10% per year, and such interest can be significant. This procedure can also be used where the District Attorney sues a party claiming that they owe significant back support, and the obligated spouse contests this amount.

5. Child Support Security Account/ Electronic Funds Transfer: The court can require the paying spouse to deposit up to one year's payments to fund an interest-bearing trust account for the supported child. The account acts as a continuing guarantee for monthly child support payments; disbursements to satisfy support arrears will be ordered if payments become 10 or more days overdue. This method of enforcement is often used where the obligor spouse is self-employed or frequently changing jobs. [California Family Code Sections 4560, 4561, 4570]

Information provided by:
Aaron Dishon, Attorney at Law located at

Recommended Resources:
California Divorce Source
California Divorce Laws
California Community Forum
California Divorce Resources

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